Last year I wrote an article called ” I.T. Decisions – Who Makes Them In Your Organization? “. Often the wrong people are making these decisions, they aren’t bad people but they should rely on those who work with Technology and understand the implications of making the wrong choices. One of the best ways to prevent the wrong people from making I.T. decisions is to make sure all business processes are well documented and measured (weighted). Why you ask?
- If all subject matter experts in your business were to document their business processes, you would know exactly what each staff person has to do each and everyday to get the job done.
- You then have a foundation to measure the right software applications for your business
- These business processes can now be measured and weighted to help make I.T. decisions for your organization
Those are just few but you should be getting the idea.
There are many ways of handling the task of measuring business processes but I’ll try to keep it simple for you. There are two things I would recommend:
- Build a Database (MySQL or SQL) to store your business processes & the weighting
- Build Excel Worksheets to enter & pull these processes and weights from the Database
Years ago I had a couple of really sharp guys working for me, they built a nifty application (system) for us to measure our business processes against features in software applications. We wanted to have a snapshot of how each application matched up against each other, the problem is we didn’t have an easy way to see all our requirements on one page. We also didn’t know which processes were more important than others.
The first step is to pull your key subject matter experts together, get all business processes documented for each role in the organization. This ensured you knew what tasks had to be completed each and everyday to do business. Depending on your business this can be an easy job or a labour intensive one. I highly recommend this gets done regardless of how hard or how long it takes, because it makes future upgrades and or the decision to change a core application in your organization much easier.
Once you have your business processes documented you have something to work with when deciding what software or ERP systems implement, this job takes time but it’s well worth it. Enter these processes into your database, then build spreadsheets to pull that data out for review.
In your database you want to also store a measurement we’ll call weighting for this example. Why? When you sitdown and have software demonstrated you can ask key questions, does this software do this and that from your database. Afterall, you are asking directly from how you do business (your documented business processes). You now want to be able to give that process a score or measurement when sitting in these demonstrations. Your scale might look like this:
1 – Does it well and is easy to use
3 – Does it but not well – not easy to figure out or use
5 – May need to be modified
9 – Not sure – need more information
0 – Doesn’t do it at all
In your spreadsheet you would use the above scale to measure the software you are looking at on a business process by business process basis. Sounds tedious doesn’t it? It is when setting things up the first time, after that it gets much easier because you don’t need to build it again.
This is just one way of measuring your business process against software, you could and should group your business processes by importance as well. That way you know exactly what you MUST have and what the NICE to have’s would be.
I hope that helps, feel free to conatct me if you have questions or wish to go through this process for your business.
I would love your feedback, what do you think and do you have a better way?
This technically could be the last section of your plan, this is where you take a high level look at the plan and existing challenges that may hamper your ability to deliver on any said item. Depending on who and how I.T. decisions are made in your organization could literally dismantle your strategy on many levels. I wrote on this topic back June 2009, it’s called I.T. Decisions – Who Makes Them In Your Organization?
Once you’ve finished this section you can then do an Executive Summary for the purposes of presenting to your Executive Team and or Board of Directors. Here is a short hypothetical example of this section:
A one year planning and budgeting cycle creates significant difficulties for the I.T. Department to execute the early stages of this plan.
- Hardware and software have to be upgraded or replaced regularly, either to take advantage of newer technologies or reduce maintenance fees. However, sometimes an upgrade would make long term sense but cannot be done because it is too large for a one year budget. This has resulted in a series of sub-optimal short term purchasing decisions being made.
- Recent budget cuts have forced a multi-year upgrade schedule to be differed resulting in perpetually out-of-date technology.
- Many projects take longer than one year to complete and require both tools and personnel at the start-up stage, but will not see significant results until the subsequent year.
- A new service is anticipated to be required by a department in a future year but the department lacks sufficient budget or approval to such an expenditure; however, there might be sufficient lead time for IT to prepare the infrastructure; does IT ” risk it ” and build the infrastructure anyway?
That’s just snippet of what you might put in this Planning Observations section, I suggest you pull your top three together to ensure you are covering the critical issues. You’ll want your IT leaders to be in the loop especially if you are seeking additional budget and it gets rejected, they may be able to assist you with other creative ways to turn the rejection around.
How are I.T. Decisions made in your business or organization? Who makes those decisions? One of the challenges with non-technical upper management decision makers getting involved is, it’s usually about them wanting a particular toy or functionality. I.T. decisions are based on one or a select group of people because they are the bosses and get what they want or it’s in the name of getting something done. I have found that making technology decisions in that fashion usually cripples your ability to shift gears down the road, you end up implementing the wrong solution and you spend two to three times the dollars fixing the problem later. What you do today matters, do all you can to prevent it and do the painful work of finding a more rational solution if you can. Oh ya, whenever possible avoid database conversions as it will add to the scope of the project(s).
On your journey to make things easier for you, collect and database all business processes in your organization and weight them for measurement, then consult all subject matter experts in the organization to ensure by-in before you go off finding a solution. Remember, it’s not who wants it or what kind of technology that’s the issue, what’s paramount is knowing what your organization needs. Which means you have a good understanding of the company you work for and it’s systems.
Another thing to consider, what is the perceived value your business or organization has on Information Technology and the Systems it uses to organize data. If your new prospect or management team doesn’t understand the value of technology, you now have an educational task on your hands.
Another challenge business owners have is discerning who they should trust, there are so many EXPERTS out there confusing and complicating the problem. There are key questions that can be asked to qualify the said consultant to assist you and your organization with technology strategies but that’s another article.
The point is, organizations handcuff themselves by allowing only non-technology people to make long term technology decisions. That’s not all bad but it’s not wise to have 100% of all I.T. decisions made by them in isolation. In most cases they will invest in something and then hand it off to the I.T. department with a note attached, ” Make this work with our systems”. They know what they want the system to do and or what they want to have happen. They don’t understand how existing systems work and what they will or won’t work with, at the core, non-technology people are unable to see and know where technology is going, what may solve problems in 3-5 years…don’t worry most of us don’t, but, technology people know how and where to find out. They understand the order in which you should proceed, they understand what you have and what you should look for in solutions.
If you have questions feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org