As business efficiency experts, we are often asked to address systems issues. The road to ruin for many IT projects starts with a decision to upgrade or replace applications, but nobody being clear on why or what results are expected.
As well as not generating a detailed brief on what is expected from the new system, far too many businesses fail to involve vital employees. Every brief should include questions on how it will integrate with management controls, help manage decision-making and achieve better performance.
Many applications fail due to sub-standard work on the definition and brief. This is then compounded by choosing a corporate consultancy without researching the success of its previous installations. It’s all too common to hear about systems supposed to cost €30m to install that actually cost €150m and still don’t meet expectations.
As objective consultants, when we challenge system suppliers on their work we often hear ‘the client didn’t ask for that’ or ‘yes, we can make that alteration but it’ll cost more’. Support programmes to help with system issues are signed up to at vast cost which would not be necessary if the system had been designed properly in the first place. If this is considered acceptable, where is the motivation for suppliers to get it right?
We have investigated systems with over 4,000 incorrect data issues. We know – don’t ask demotivated staff or hired labour to input data. Workers who know nothing about the business are not able to spot obvious problems.
Once a new system is up and running it is likely to create a pile of data which is turned into huge, unmanageable reports. Some poor employee is then tasked with doing ‘something’ with the data. It is not uncommon for employees to become so frustrated with new systems that they create their own in Excel to make things simpler.
It is essential for a business to understand the indicators required to allow true management of a system. It is vital that employees are trained how to manage decision-making using these indicators.
In summary, a system should deliver relevant, correct data at the right time to employees who understand what the decision process is.
Geoff Smith is a Director at Libra Europe