This blog from Kimble Applications’ Co-Founder, Mark Robinson, highlights the Role of Workplace Technology and How to Take a Flexible Approach on an Overdetailed RFP.
Selecting and implementing new technology is a challenging job for any Management team. It isn’t a surprise to anyone in this market that there are still too many instances of big IT projects ending in failure. And then there are the semi-successes, where the system works, but the expected return on investment doesn’t materialize.
Sometimes the solution turns out to be cumbersome and difficult to use – that’s bad news even if the Management team doesn’t actually have to use it on a daily basis. Nobody wants to be pinned to the wall at every office social event by employees complaining about the new IT system. Getting it wrong can be difficult to recover from – the business which has already invested a lot of money and they will be reluctant to change horses in midstream, even if it turns out that people are not adopting what was bought.
How do you get this right? How do you ensure that you are buying software for the long-term, something with the flexibility to grow along with your business? Here are some pointers drew from the long experience of both buying and selling software.
Consult the End Users
Too often the decision to buy software is made by the C-suite without much involvement from the people who are going to be using it every day. It may be the case that the end-users engage with the software in a limited way – putting in timesheets or accessing a work schedule. But whether their daily experience is positive or negative is vital to the success of the project. Recruit some of these daily users to be part of the team which is scoping and evaluating the different types of software. Every new IT system needs champions – having a group of end-users who have been engaged in the process, understand the benefits and can demonstrate these to others is likely to drive adoption.
Bringing in new IT often involves a Change management process. Communicate clearly across the organization about what is involved. Listen to, and address people’s fears and concerns about the change. Make training available. And then make repeat training available, in bite sizes, at the moments when people need to know.
Focus on Outcomes
In order to get the full benefit from the proposed system, make sure to approach the solution from an outcome-driven, long term perspective. Rather than thinking “What will this fix?”, begin to think along the lines of “What can I achieve with this system?” Looking at the potential of the software to meet business objectives, rather than the strict functional requirements is the first step in finding systems that will actually achieve what you are looking for in the long run. How will this new software help your business to better serve existing and new customers? How will it help you to achieve your vision?
Take a Flexible Approach Rather Than Giving an Overdetailed RFP
If you are trying to evaluate the vendors effectively and understand how what they can offer can benefit your business, it is best to keep the selection process more open and flexible.
In the past, software selection processes built around Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and extensive feature and function checklists have created a bias for inflexible, old technologies. It is often the case that getting the benefit from the new software will require a readiness to rethink business processes. There is no benefit in automating a bad or outdated process. So, RFPs which are too literal can have the unintended effect of locking out next-generation solutions which involved new ways of working.
Ask the vendors what they can provide your business to achieve important goals rather than leading them down a rabbit hole of all the customs requirements you’d like to see. Give them enough information to provide you with an educational and specific demo, but put the onus on them to build an argument for how their software is suited to your business. You will have an easier time judging whether you’re seeing the real deal at a big-picture level – that is an ideal fit for your needs – if you don’t over-specify what every need is.
Deliver Value Quickly, Iterate and Keep Improving
Instead of waiting for the perfect solution and attempting to deliver all of the benefits in one ‘big bang’, it is usually better to take a more agile approach. Break the implementation down into stages. Your first ‘go-live’ implementation can be a bare bone which brings some of the key benefits. Once that is in place, focus on adoption, training, and evaluation. Then you can continue to iterate and improve, delivering further benefits.
In summary, selecting, buying and implementing software which will deliver benefits for the business in the long term requires a flexible and inclusive approach, focused on the impact on the end-users and customers.