Magazine Article | May 1, 2000

Maximizing The Value Of Your IT Investment

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Your user community can be an advocate for change within your company. But, do you consider its input when it's time to make an IT decision?

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, May 2000
All too often, an organization may find itself finishing a lengthy, exhausting implementation of an enterprise application, only to be disappointed with the results. The gains in productivity and competitive positioning may not have materialized, and people are left wondering just what was the point of it all. Recriminations and frustrations can be everywhere. Most often, the seeds for this disappointment are sown at the outset of the initiative. An important contributor being that IT initiatives are driven from a predominately technical rather than process perspective. To eliminate this disappointment, redirect focus to the business processes impacted by the proposed solution.

Keep The Users In Mind
A process-centric approach for an IT initiative fundamentally changes how the projects are conceived and executed. It also changes how the user community perceives the projects. From the outset, in a process-centric initiative, the users are involved and challenged to think about how the business runs presently. They need to evaluate what areas are less effective, and how they want the business to operate in the future.

Frequently, these sessions extend beyond the scope of the IT project into other areas. This may seem a distraction initially, but it is invaluable to the organization. The business community begins thinking about operations in a holistic manner. When processes are viewed not as individual entities, but each as a part of the larger flow, effective operating policies can be developed. This exercise allows the user community to gain a sense of control over its environment. The user community will work in a partnership with the technology groups, rather than resisting change. In short, the users become champions of change and advocate acceptance throughout the organization.

The benefits of this approach for the technology groups are realized throughout the project. How the IT initiative supports the business strategies and goals is scrutinized and shared up front with an organization. As the goals are understood and adopted, each group affected becomes a stakeholder, rather than a passive or reluctant participant.

Maximize The Full Potential Of The RFP Process
The users, through mapping and modeling sessions, will detail the functional requirements. This spares everyone from the "I got what I asked for, but not what I wanted" syndrome. The RFP (request for proposal) creation process can then take advantage of this information by fully capturing the range of functionality desired to support optimized business processes.

The process maps provide the basis for developing comprehensive user-testing scenarios. These can be powerful tools in evaluating a product and identifying gaps in functionality. Moreover, when gaps are discovered, users are far more open to changing business processes that conform to the software. This is always preferable to changing the application code.

Enhance Training Programs
Training particularly benefits from a process-centric approach. The detailed process flows are the basis for training plans that emphasize how the application is used within logical operational flows developed by the users themselves. There are obvious advantages to this method over rushing through training just before the go-live date.

Embracing this process-centric approach creates a sense of ownership for the project within the business community. This in turn fosters acceptance and sets the stage not just for a single IT initiative but for user-driven initiatives that optimize performance and enhance continuous process improvement.

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