Question: If implementing a computer application was as simple as developing an Request for Proposal and comparing costs and features, why is there such a gap between capability and performance?
Answer: Processes change and are dynamic, as well as markets. Too often systems are purchased on today's needs and not based upon a current and future process model of performance.
Pitfall: "Our needs" do not mean meeting the paradigms of old. "Our needs" considers taking a new, fresh, assessment of the sometimes painful cultural changes that are needed to move forward, and a software solution's ability to meet these long haul changes.

Question: Isn't the best featured or most technologically advanced system the best value for the dollar?

Answer(s): What are you used to? Consider operational change as well as software change. Is an application on the leading edge or "bleeding edge" Final compelling thought: What does it matter if the vendor is not around to support the system or continue to improve it?

Pitfall: Since the early days of the software industry one thing has remained consistent and constant. Applications that are "mature" are "reliable" and well documented. Applications that are newer are less reliable or "flaky" and less proven in terms of stated features, documentation, and training methods.

Question: Why do systems cost more than vendors always quote us?
Answers: Ignorance, but often failure to probe. As you use systems your awareness and expectations change. Occasionally vendors avoid asking tough questions in the heat of the competitive battle.

Pitfall: How much information is enough? New systems offer new opportunities for information and control. Demands users make are often the result of this new-found treasure chest. The test: Is it a treasure chest or simply more detail and minutae that does not tangibly yield better control and results.

Question often put to vendor: How can I get this exact report?. We depend on it.

Answer: Why?

Pitfall: You don't know what you don't know. Behind the sacred cow there may be a rainbow. Reports that have been institutionalized are often reactive and historical and not proactive and "exception" oriented. Why get a new system to replicate the limitations of what you have been doing? "Open database" features are nice, but may be used as a stop gap to more critical issues of control and management that should be explored.

Question: Why does it take so long to get a system up and running? I've talked to other organizations that have spent YEARS trying to get a system to work.

Answer: The software worked when the customer took delivery of it. It's a tool and now it's up to the builder to put it to work. Unfortunately it's not as simple as taking one step to convert data and begin receiving the benefits. There is a natural learning curve, a conversion step or steps with a totally integrated system, new controls that must be implemented, and, with a more integrated system, many other departments and people who are now affected by what the new system does. We're talking organizational change here, not just software.

Pitfall: The vision of organizational change is not as detailed as the tactics of changing it. The concept of learning and converting a system is not as detailed as the mechanics of doing it. Do we have the manpower, and organizational commitment and communication to keep it progressive? A car running at 5000 rpm does not have much extra capacity. An organization running at redline does not have much resource to get a system converted and focus on what it can do. Where are you in this picture?

For more information contact:
William A. Allen, Consultant
15710 N.E. 59th Way
Redmond, WA
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