“When are we going to do Phase 2 of our administration systems?”
This is a question that has been asked by operations staff through at least four generations of software project implementations. The answer of course is that it probably will not happen because company and government executives don’t always understand the value of their systems investments. Corporate administrative systems don’t generate additional revenue, nor do they appear to provide much more information than the old systems did. The integration of large scale projects and the relative ease of interfacing to other systems is technical elegance that isn’t very visible in the boardroom. The end result is that very many large organizations and governments paid 100 % (or more) of package license fees or development to use 75% of the package functionality. Unfortunately, after all the upheaval and effort of implementing the basic functionality, anything beyond that is relegated to Phase 2. Administrative elements such as training administration, occupational health and safety, financial modeling and performance measurement which can be relatively simple to implement once the basic system is in place, are ignored. Undoubtedly, some of this is caused by fatigue, both physical and financial, but probably the largest single cause of not adding functionality is because people don’t realize it’s already there. This was very dramatically brought home to us at a recent conference when several people approached us about adding functions to their systems, either by buying additional software, or writing it in house. After some discussion, it turned out that each of the packages from different vendors had all of the increased functions these folks were looking for. It also turned out that the people now looking for the added functions had not been part of the original implementation or been given the usual vendors’ sales pitch that includes everything but what you’re interested in at the moment. At this point, in these companies, the implementation project was finished; the consultants had moved on; the vendor sales people had disappeared; telephone and e-mail handled the maintenance. No one was left that understood the business side of the project that was developed.
We suggest this is more common than one likes to admit. The worst part is that some of these things that are ignored would easily change the ability of the organization to operate efficiently.
- reduce administrative overhead;
- improve customer service;
- help finance departments look like wizards;
- boost employee satisfaction;
- reduce personnel administration costs.
What do we do about it? A good start would be to look at the administrative systems and see what’s available that isn’t being used. Go back and find out what was supposed to be in Phase 2. Give some serious thought to how the application end users could benefit.
- Get the users involved and listen to them;
- Resist the temptation to redesign or re-write the system:
- Help management understand the information they could have instead of what they do have;
- Get help. Both the vendor and good systems integrators can help you without breaking the bank.
Don’t even mention the Internet and the neat new toys until you get your infrastructure systems operating efficiently. That’s when evolving into web-enablement and e-commerce becomes the logical next step in the business – not just another forgotten Phase 2.