Friday, March 11, 2011

Considerations BEFORE you install the next Great Technology

In today's highly competitive business environment executives often settle for shortcuts.   CEOs are under constant pressure from the Board of Directors to tell them what is changing in the organization – “give us examples of change” is a common request. Of course most of these changes are relayed via a very polished once-a-month PowerPoint presentation. These presentations are highly scripted and of course, manipulated to present the best picture of the organization and the CEOs accomplishments. It is a rare day when bad news is presented in the boardroom.

Executives often become obsessed with checking the box versus doing what's right. One major waste in every organization but especially Hospitals is the tendency to install the latest and greatest software that will “solve all our problems and put us in the forefront of medicine”.  The exercise usually goes like this:
 One of the senior managers or executives keeps hearing about process issues; maybe the lack of good cost accounting or the shortfalls in our patient management system.  They discover several vendors who can offer solutions and they bring them in for demonstrations.  These vendors wow the group with the software capabilities and everyone buys-in because this system seems to be able to eliminate the headaches caused by the current process and/or current software. IT is pulled into the mix to asses the technology needs and Purchasing sends out an RFP and beats up the vendors on price.  Soon the capital is approved and a rough plan is assembled with emphasis on launch dates, hardware upgrades, and a few slides about the business benefits.

And the problem begins….most of the effort upfront is about what software to pick based on the best technology and little if any time is spent developing a detailed analysis of the current process, user needs (voice of the customer), and the desired future process.  Sure, everyone knows the current process is broken but few really understand why, they just think they know why.  Users are so bogged down in the day-to-day process that when they sit in on a vendor demonstration everything looks better than what they have and of course, the vendors paint a picture of seamless software that is so easy to use a child can operate it.  Studies have shown that best-practice organizations spend at least 30% - 40% of their effort on defining the business needs of the organization before purchasing and installing software solutions yet, on average, most organizations spend only 10% of their efforts in this area.  I have seen multi-million dollar software installs with ill defined user needs, poor or no metrics, and little upfront involvement of the user community.   The result is predictable; due dates and budgets are hit because that is where the focus was concentrated but there is a complete failure to deliver on the business needs.

Installing state-of-the-art software makes a great slide for the Board Room and probably creates a certain sense of accomplishment but business results are what matters and sooner or later the piper comes calling.  As these bad technology decisions accumulate they have a way creating tremendous process inefficiency and hidden (but real) costs,  users start creating more and more work-arounds and  side-systems in their efforts to get around the business road blocks created by a poorly executed software or new technology launch.  It’s not long before everyone is back in the conference room looking at another software/technology demonstration and living the fantasy one more time. 

No comments:

Post a Comment