This post was triggered by an article that came across my desk earlier this week. The item explored what you need to ask before changing systems and outlined a lot of good points.
However, I felt there were some significant gaps in the article. These gaps are some of the most common mistakes that I come across in my work as a management consultant and quality systems auditor in the community services sector.
I hope that my tips will raise some awareness of how excessive spending and negative experiences around information and quality management systems can be avoided.
Here they are – my top three tips:
The Sales Pitch
It is incredible how often I see that businesses and organisations use a company that develops software to identify what their needs are and implement the new system.
Would you go to a car dealer and say: ‘I want a new car, can you select one for me?’ No, you wouldn’t, but that is in essence, what you do when you pick a consultant or technician that is aligned/ committed to a particular product.
Having an ICT strategy that is tailored to your services/products and organisational structure will not only help you to select software and hardware (tools and technology) through a proper procurement process but you have a longer-term plan that you can monitor and review.
Tip 1 – Choose an independent consultant who is not aligned with any product to scope your IT needs and helps you develop your ICT strategy.
The One Dimensional Approach
Whatever you want to call it Information Management, Information and Communication Technology or Information Technology – it’s about more than the tools and the technology.
Unfortunately, it is often forgotten that ‘technology and tools alone do not actually do anything, results only occur when they are combined with three other vital ingredients to make Business Systems’ – Toomey, M. Waltzing with the Elephant (2009)
Tip 2 – Ensure that all dimensions of what makes a Business System are considered when designing, implementing and monitoring your IT Strategy– these dimensions include the people that use them, the activities within your organisation and the structural set up of your organisation.
Looking beyond the Facade
So you have identified the software that matches your organisational needs and has all the bells and whistles that you are looking for (after you have taken Tips 1 and 2 into consideration).
Unfortunately, the software alone is not what you need. You need to know that the supplier has the maturity and solidity to maintain, safeguard and update their product.
Let me go back to the ‘buying a car example’ – would you buy a car from a dealer that does not have a good track record ( e.g. is known not to honour warranties and guarantees?), cannot demonstrate that they will be around when your car needs servicing? Well, the same goes for a supplier of software.
Tip 3 – Include in your selection process items that cover the developer and follow up services/ upgrades/risk mitigation. Develop a ‘selection criteria’ similar as you do for staff recruitment and in procurement processes for other suppliers. These may include outlining product warranties and guarantees, a fee schedule of ancillary services, evidence that the product is protected from, or resilient against, potential harm from external forces, demonstrate that the software is capable of managing growth in your business and the list goes on.
I hope this little snapshot of tips contributes to the ultimate aim for which tools and technology have been developed – to enhance good quality and evidenced-based service outcomes and products.