It never ceases to amaze me how almost any conversation about any information technology eventually comes around to the same thing: the need to identify the fundamental business problem that the technology is intended to solve!
Today’s conversation centered on cloud computing, yesterday’s on enterprise content management, and Monday’s on SharePoint — and despite the fact that the tools were so different, each of the discussions ended on pretty much the same note:
To get maximum total value from your solution, you need to first analyze your needs and only then choose a provider!
This isn’t rocket science, of course, so it was entirely appropriate for a reporter I was speaking with to exclaim, “That makes perfect sense! So why don’t more people do it?”
The answer exists in multiple parts:
- It can take a long time to generate the kind of information that is of the most use, and bosses and CFOs often are looking for answers sooner rather than later. Consequently, shortcuts are taken, and project success is often diminished at best (and absent at worst).
- Doing this diligence hampers people’s ability to do their regular jobs, and they worry about possible fallout at performance-review time – unless they are lucky enough to be detached from their regular duties and set free to do the work.
- People are often threatened by the notion of change, especially when that change is aimed directly at the functions they perform. So it can be difficult to shake the needed information loose and to reality-test the answers to ensure an accurate picture is being painted.
None of these things, of course, have anything to do with technology; rather, they are all functions of human behavior and organizational culture. These things can be terribly difficult to address, not only because they are so fundamental to the way a business works, but because they often cannot even be seen except by someone with an outside perspective.
What this means is you really have to look for possible choke points in your information flow and give the people who live there permission to feel okay about the work you are doing. It also can be helpful to play “good cop/bad cop” with a boss, colleague, or outside consultant (whom people may be predisposed to dislike anyway) in order to generate the required intelligence.
However you do it, make sure it’s the proper end of the dog that is doing the wagging. The business needs must come first – otherwise the technology you choose, the matter how good it is, may not deliver the results you thought it would.