Business Processes or Software: Which Should You Consider First?
It’s a question you should be seriously considering before you get started on any software implementation project—should you be putting more consideration into the software you choose or the business processes you need it to support? In fact, a lot of companies will get the answer wrong. Those leaders fail to see the value in accurately evaluating all of their business processes and use cases before jumping headfirst into a software implementation, eager to reap the revenue software vendors promise will be instant. The result is an ERP or CRM that is not fully designed to work with the business, which will fail to support crucial functions and consequently will not drive enough revenue to justify the significant investment. Here’s why considering your business processes should be more important to you then the software you’re going to run them on.
Not Everyone Agrees on What Software Should Do
Can you recall a time when you have been part of an IT project when the outlined objectives were never completely filled? Most people can. This disconnect between project goals and reality often happens because expectations are not properly managed or communicated among team members before the process has begun. If everyone in your company doesn’t fully outline the problems the software will be designed to solve, they will not agree on what functions they want enterprise software to perform, what data the system should collect and then how that data should be displayed. This kind of confusion directly translates into project failure.
Before you install that software you need to ensure that everyone within your company is on the same page about what that software will do and what tasks every employee needs to perform to ensure that it is implemented and adopted properly. A big consideration you need to be making is thinking about what is on your business’ horizon: if you plan on significant growth, you’re going to need a software solution that is amenable to scalability and restructuring to grow with your business. If you envision having a sales team that is often out of the office and traveling to clients, you should also be looking for enterprise software with stellar mobile functionality.
Out-of-the-Box Software is Misleading
You may think that once you get your shiny new piece of software, everything will be as simple as simply downloading your data into the system. Not so fast—you also need to mold that software to fit your existing business processes. What you get out of the box with any ERP or CRM system is going to be very different to what the software vendor showed off during the demo. Demos are designed to sell software—of course the provider is going to spend time building out a test system that makes you believe your new system will be able to instantly perform every function you need it to, all while producing colorful and eye-catching data reports. That’s not to say that it won’t. An enterprise system can do wonders in cutting costs, driving revenue and automating efficiency within a company, but you need to work with the software first. This kind of work includes customization, data entry and user adoption within your business. And you guessed it: you need to understand your business processes completely before you can complete that work.
The success of a software project will hinge on the intersection between business outcomes and technical requirements.
Consider this case
As expert software consultants, we were called to a case where a manufacturing customer’s ERP system was failing them. The discrepancy in the investment they put into their software and the value they were getting out of it lay in the initial process modeling: when asked everything they do for their job, most people would miss a couple of occasional duties when they recount their daily task. However, without the faithful operation of those ‘occasionals’, the company suffers. This is what happened with the client; the company did not fully document every area of their prior system, meaning that there was no way for their new software to account for the exceptions. As a result, someone would remember some task or function they needed the software to support post go-live. New modifications while the system are live always cause obstructions and have little to no time for testing. The result? That software system took 3x longer to achieve value than what was expected, precisely because the project was not supported with a complete foundation of business processes, use cases and expected outcomes.
Business Processes are what make the software do all the things you imagine it doing
The answer? Business Process Modeling. Successful projects are only 25% software and 75% business processes, and it requires significant effort to ensure that that 75% is fully covered. Because you know your business, you won’t jump to a software solution prematurely and end up with a product that isn’t a true fit and will be guaranteed to fail you somewhere down the line. We have been called to a projects where we patched up an ailing software system simply by completing a thorough model of the business process; not only asking everyone what they do daily, but performing use cases, communicating with multiple people about every role in the company and making sure that employees knew their tasks, but also how that work affected everyone else in the company. With this approach the software implementation was restarted on time and on budget, and ultimately delivered all of the benefits that the company wanted—with virtually no discussion of the actual software. In the end, the software had nothing to do with the failure (or success) of the implementation, and everything to do with their processes.
If you don’t fully understand your problem, or what you are trying to fix within your company, you will not be looking for the correct solution. In the end, you must treat the patient and not the disease to make sure all of those investment dollars going towards the problem aren’t being wasted. As we discuss in our Ultimate ERP Implementation Plan E-Book, your software project 100% depends on returning to the questions that spearheaded your project’s campaign and fundamentally understanding the premise of the issues you intend a new enterprise system to support.
Your Success Does Not Lie in Software, But Your Business Processes
To get started with modeling your business processes and guaranteeing success on your next software project, contact an expert at Datix today. We have built our business on helping clients benefits from failures we’ve experience and worked through in the past—by learning why a project wasn’t 100% ready on the date of go live or why expected results were not achieved on time, we know how to fine tune systems to prevent that from happening on a project again. Software implementation can truly perform everything you’re expecting it, and more—you just need to go into project with a well-founded knowledge of everything that software will do. We can help you build that confidence; just drop us a line.