With the surge in more affordable and flexible cloud based information systems, like salesforce.com, many intelligent organizations are evaluating changing their information systems. This is particularly true for franchise organizations, whose unique business models offer an opportunity to improve productivity significantly via the wise adoption of well crafted solutions like franchiseflywheel.com .
Unfortunately some organizations attempting to make significant changes in their information systems never realize their true potential. Often the “system” or technology is blamed as the reason. While there are flawed systems out there, they are rarely the key cause.
Putting aside the pros and cons of alternative IT solutions on the market, several barriers exist to realizing the opportunity information technology systems offer. A key one is the potential a system can deliver as opposed to what people actually do in their day to day functions. These two worlds are most often quite varied. The trick is understanding this gap and wisely designing an implementation plan that takes into account some important and practical considerations. This can be a painful and time consuming process, but failing to embark on the effort often leads to poor outcomes. The technology works great but goes unused.
People don’t like change, so no matter the opportunity change offers, it is rarely the technology and more often how people are included as part of a solution in tandem with a thoughtful plan that results in a system being more successful. Therefore, some key disciplines should be applied when implementing new information system technologies:
1. Identification of a single person in charge of the project;
2. Involvement of all user departments;
3. Documentation of extant business practice and process;
4. Documentation of the ideal process outcomes of a new system;
5. An assessment of staff skills as it pertains to the new technology;
6. Identification of specific steps required to shift from the extant practices to the new practices;
7. Identification of resources required for extra work and time involved in making the switch;
8. A training plan for staff to upgrade their technology skill and use of the new systems; and
9. Establishing a realistic time line with implementation phased in by appropriate functions.
Getting organizational buy-in is key. People need to understand what the opportunity is and feel they are part of its adoption. Also, having an implementation plan is crucial. However, adhering to the nine disciplines above is difficult. Often businesses are going through change which heightens the need for improved business process that IT facilitates. The solution is needed sooner than later and its common to let the details get “figured out later” when one has a general conception of how things might be, particularly when based on slick new potential that technologies offer.
To illustrate how important some of the nine disciplines are consider one: the documentation of extant business process and practice. If you are upgrading to a new system why should you be concerned about understanding the details of the existing system ? It is common for management to believe they understand present methods being employed in their own companies. After all they work there and often had a hand in designing processes. However, the devil is in the details, so while many an executive will tell you they know how existing processes are working today, many times they do not intimately understand them. Turnover, inattention to an area, or other factors may be the cause. Regardless of the reason, understanding how things are really being done is a critical first step in both identifying the greatest areas of opportunity but also in reducing the number of unanticipated gaps that may emerge in implementing a new solution. The painful reconciliation of the present to a glorious future is critical and people are often surprised at the outcome of the process. The discipline also serves to illustrate important aspects of a culture that may be impeding implementation; if an existing system is not working today because employees refuse to adopt tools or have not been trained, there will be a similar failure of adoption with any new system.
Another example of why the nine point are important can be demonstrated by contemplating this one: documentation of the ideal process outcomes of a new system. Specific outcomes are important to identify what the result should be. There is a difference between the general notion of an outcome and clear identification of exactly what will occur. It also important to know what exact requirements are part of the outcome. For example, if certain data or functions aren’t being performed reports won’t be generated. That wouldn’t be a failure of the system. It is often assumed the “system” alone is the solution; it is unfortunately not. The solution is a wise and integrated application of technology tools with an important understanding that people are its users. Just as a quality franchise concept can fail in the hands of a poorly oriented franchisee, so can a quality information system fail in the hands of an unthoughtful adopter. Achieving fantastic IT outcomes is as much about having a disciplined organization that understands its application and is using the tool. Again, the system is only a tool, it is not THE solution.
In closing, adoption of these 9 disciplines might require more time but is well worth the effort and critical to success. The next time you are considering the adoption of a new IT solution, keep these important points in mind.