The use of IT systems to make businesses more productive took off in 1995 when Microsoft published Windows 95. From the point of its release, the use of systems in the workplace rocketed to new heights. Old hat techniques such as paper administration and filing were slowly being abolished and replaced with new electronic methods.
Businesses were learning how to get value out of computers and started redesigning processes to ensure that systems became integral parts of their operation.
The formula that appeared to dictate our use of systems since 1995 was simply; the more you use systems to do your job, the better business will be for everyone. For a while, this might have been true, but the reality was that businesses were often creating new problems for themselves as they solved existing ones.
You can see it across all types of businesses, a dependence on systems as the solution to problems in place of simpler more controllable solutions. I have seen one example of a company spending over £50,000 on a bespoke system that could have achieved the same objective through the clever use of an Excel spreadsheet. Eventually, that system was scrapped after a year of trying to make it work and the cost simply absorbed into the businesses.
This overzealousness to adopt systems is what has fuelled the failure of so many IT projects. Businesses no longer look at defining the problem first and then finding the best fit solution, instead, they see systems that look good and find problems for them to fix.
With the increased accessibility of systems through cloud-based tools, businesses are chasing their tails trying to adopt systems fast enough to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. You only have to “google” a type of software to be presented with a plethora of potential products. As a result, the question isn’t “do we need a system?” it becomes, “which one shall we buy?”.
There are three common failures with any IT project and they all occur during the feasibility stage:
1. Capturing the business need
What is the problem your business is trying to solve? Spend time defining the problem. Is the problem you think you are trying to solve the right one?
2. Future proofing
Don’t just think about the problems your business has now, what will be your problems over the next 3 years? Can this system solve those problems too?
3. Capacity for change
Is the business ready for change? The biggest issue with any IT projects is stakeholder adoption. If your employees aren’t ready to use a new product, or there are greater priorities, you may want to rethink your plans.
Thorough testing of the feasibility of a system, no matter how cheap or expensive will save you from:
- going over budget;
- expensive ‘change requests’;
- not completing on time; and
- losing the support of stakeholders.