In our first post, we stressed the importance of clearly defining what processes the new system should enable and what steps should be automated. In our second post we discussed selecting the correct technology for your new system. Once you have a very well defined idea of what the new system should accomplish and the level of automation that is needed, and you have made the next critical decision – the technology to be used – you can now determine the best way to proceed to the new system.
In this phase of the assessment your focus will shift from “what” to “how” and “when”. Just as in the first 2 phases of the assessment, you will have some choices to make in this phase of the assessment as well. To gather the information that you need to make the correct choices you should poll your user and executive communities to find the following information:
- Is there a new product initiative and when is the anticipated launch?
- Is there a new law that impacts your business and when will it take effect?
- Is there a compelling business event on the horizon, how will it impact your processes?
- Has the competitive landscape changed and how is that impacting your business?
- Has there been a change in senior management and how is there direction changing your business processes?
- Is there a budget process and how many resources have been allocated to system and process change?
- Is there a large problem with the current system that can’t be or is too expensive to fix?
There may be other questions particular to your business (information privacy, system security, and merger and acquisition come to mind) but be sure to at least explore and answer the 7 questions above.
New systems are disruptive to the company culture, now is the time to assess how much disruption your organization can withstand. Is a rip the bandage off approach the best one or would a less disruptive approach be better. In other words, is it logical to deploy the new system to all potential users, or would a phased in approach to select user groups work better? Should you wait to release until all of the envisioned processes are enabled or is it a better choice to release when key processes are enabled and then schedule subsequent small releases when additional development is completed? Your assessment should explore and explain your options on “how” and “when”. It should include compelling reasons for each possible path and pitfalls to avoid on each path. The first draft should not seek to recommend a single path but rather, expose and explore several viable alternate design, development, and deployment options that fit your needs and circumstances. Your goal is to weed out any recommendations that don’t fit with your needs and circumstances and you should have enough information at this point to do that.
Eventually, the final document will have a “best” glide path in it, along with the other paths that were explored and rejected. Getting to that best path is the subject of our next posting in this series.
This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career. He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.