Business leaders and software solution providers are always seeking this answer. The dilemma is how to create the milieu that brings these two entities together creating that “Prefect Match.’
Having witnessed and participated in several approaches, candidly few have resulted in matches; much less perfect. Here is a guide for those business decision makers and solution providers using a fundamental ABC method.
To draw on a well know phase, our business leaders and solution providers have lost perspective of the fundamental principle that brought us to the party in the first place – Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS). Do we really need a home entertainment center consisting of fifteen of the best components, with fifteen remote controls to enjoy the Wizard of OZ? Business leaders are always seeking to add new innovations to “improve” business performance for employees and stockholders. Solution providers are driving their companies to add that new solution approaches defined at the last industry conference. As a result of this drive, businesses and solution providers push for a more complex solution; generally creating issues for both groups.
Most businesses have evolved rather than rising through the big-bang theory. This has resulted in business solutions which are ‘loosely’ bundled causing difficult interoperability issue. So how does a business and a solution provider consummate a prefect match? Simple answer is to jointly define the requirements, agree on a solution, and have the solution developed for you in a timely manner; while maintaining flexibility to support your changing business. The best analogy is the design, development, and ownership of a custom home. The homebuilder industry seems to have it right and one the Information Technology industry should adopt.
Senior business leaders should define what is their core business competency, what business needs can be accomplished using a solution provider, and how a joint relationship can be put in place. The steps are straight-forward; generating the desired results can be difficult. The suggested process:
o Define a process to gather the information/requirements. This should be top-down driven and bottom-up executed. Companies think they know what their core competency is, they believe they have a solid one, three and five year business strategy defined, and they may have; but have them articulate it in a series of executive workshops.
o Review output with first line management. This may, or may not, be eye-opening to the individuals that “have to make it happen”
o Team up with two or three solution providers and ask if they will:
o Be responsive to your requirements
o Provide you with a sophisticated demonstration of their current, off-the-shelf solution
o Give you a firm fixed fee assistance price
o Help you integrate the solution into your business
o Educate you business on system usage
o Continue to enhance their base solution
o Provide you on-going support
Then select one based on sound business principles
o Define how you want the solution to “enable” your business. If you were building that house you would define, in detail, how every square foot would look. This is your Blueprint.
o Give that blueprint or business requirements to the solution provider – and get out of their way. Very seldom would you ever expect to become an active member of the construction crews as they transformed that blueprint into your dream home. However, in most solution implementations you are either asked or you request to be an active member of the implementation team – Why?
o You must participate in a formal well planned turn-over process to understand the logic used by the solution provider to generate the results. This is where to place your team’s energy. Understand the solution and how to effectively use it. You would do nothing less if you had complex solutions embedded in that custom home.
o There will be some changes or re-work of the configuration to better meet the business needs of your company. Demand that this happens. Understand the error processing that you will encounter if incorrect data is entered.
o Use the system for a defined period of time, say one month, then ask the solution provider to return and review all of the issues noted during this operational period.
Should you change/enhance your business, the ability to have the solution provider adapt the solution to those changes is one of “joint participation” in wanting to strengthen your respective businesses. This on-going relationship now moves the relationship between the business and the solution provider to one of joint Partnership; rather than one of customer and vendor, and I contend this is the Prefect Match we all seek.