Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Implementing business technology – Part 2: Taking a technology-agnostic perspective in determining needs

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 31, 2010

This is the second posting in a series on implementing business technology and I suggest two perhaps distinct areas of focus that I might deal with here: taking a technology agnostic approach to vetting and selecting technology solutions rather than starting out with any brand name or other biases, and determining needs. I at least posted some initial thoughts as to taking a technology agnostic approach in the first installment in this with Part 1: Best Practices Cyclical Processes and will undoubtedly have more to say about that, but I want to at least start this posting with a focus on the second point – needs determination. And In this I want to start with a seemingly simple question that becomes a lot more complicated when you seek to actually answer it:

• Whose needs?

This becomes complicated because any long term effective answer to it has to involve peeling back layers of consideration in ways that can operationally be like peeling an onion.

• You need to identify the legitimate stakeholders who would be directly and significantly impacted upon by the selection decisions you make.
• It is important to know the level of impact on the top and bottom lines and on functional efficiency that a failure to get this right would have, and for these various stakeholders.
• What levels and types of flexibility would they have in being able to accommodate alternative technology solutions adapted?
• Consider your legacy systems a stakeholder in this and ask yourself if it would be better to simply strive to keep everything compatible with them as maintaining a status quo, or to take steps to move on beyond your current legacy systems.
• Compatibility with supply chain and value chain partners and their technology may be needed and the same goes for compatibility with open standards (e.g. the ISO 14000 series standards for environmental quality assurance.)

And you have to consider the whole issue of meshing costs and priorities, where costs go way beyond the up-front price tags involved, to issues such as:

• Maintenance and license costs,
• Training and learning curve expenses for current staff members, and
• Any issues involved in finding and securing trained and expert new staff that would be needed because of your technology decisions.

These are, of course, only a few of the possible expense factors that can and do arise in this and certainly where significant changes may be made in the technology infrastructure. And I add the variety and importance of these issues that can come into play simply make it that much more important that you do not start with any biases that may skew your findings and decisions.

• Start by asking who your stakeholders are for this and who you need to obtain input from.
• Definitely include the people who you need to hear from but who do not normally carry a loud voice in your organization. Reach out to them.
• Inventory the potential costs and benefits areas that your analysis will have to address.
• Involve the people who will have to use this technology in the decision process so you can implement with a starting buy-in on the part of your end users, and not just a sense of resentment on their part that they have to use this but that they were not involved in selecting it.
• And follow through on everything. Every stage and step in this is a learning curve opportunity and for all involved – for all stakeholders in this process and its outcome and for you too.

I am going to continue this posting with an installment looking at some of the implications of the resource cycle from determination of needs, to analysis of potential solutions, and on through vetting selections, and implementing them – and on through the lifecycle processes you have in place in your organization.

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