Trust packages to deliver

Tailor-made software distracts managers from the business issues

Tailor-made software distracts managers from the business issues

Challenging times cause a laser-like focus on bottom-line benefits, and we will move out of the "technology-will-improve-everything-in-our-lives" hype arena for a while. One IT subject on every high level business agenda is software packages.

In the past, far from being the panacea that customers hoped and suppliers promised, software packages have not delivered. But they can now - they can be just the simple and inexpensive, value-driven solution you were looking for. To find out how, we have to look at what has gone wrong in the past.

Why have so many installations go wrong? Three reasons:

1. Customers rarely know what they are buying and are failing to look beyond the hype and expectations raised by the supplier - problems arise because the business benefits are unclear

2. The amount of work involved in altering the software, or changing business processes to meet the way the package works, is often underestimated. Some of the most spectacular failures have been when tried and tested solutions have been modified

3. Packages are, by definition, all things to all buyers, and as business complexity grows few are meeting all of a customer's requirements. This leads to modifications that result in a costly and only partially successful application. Companies end up paying more over a longer period than if they had developed a solution in-house.

So how can you make sure that packages deliver?

1. Know what you are doing, from a business perspective. Forget technology and associated hype - what are you, as a company, going to change or do and what outcome will result? This is not an IT-led discussion, but IT leaders can facilitate it

2. Do not change the package. If you are wondering how you will sell this idea to your business colleagues, remember that this is the only way to deploy technology fast. So, reconstruct your business processes around the way the package works

3. If you are still reading, thank you. Trust me - this works. Not only do you save money, resources and time by fitting your company to the solution, you do the one thing that you have been trying to persuade your company to do for years, you ensure that business-driven discussions take place at the right level

4. As you are not focusing on technology, you can instead ensure the package "works" - and by works I mean you can invest time with the most important people, those who will be using it . Forget "use-training" - think "customer-convincing".

This remains a complex area, but these four actions will make all the difference. Tailoring the business to the package is not for everyone. It is only for those people who want to drive out real bottom-line benefits fast, who want to focus on people rather than technology, and who accept that at the end of the day technology matters not a jot compared to people.

What an opportunity to prove that your prime goal is the delivery of solutions.

For years packages have been one of the so-called "universal truths" that almost always go wrong. You have an opportunity to resolve this, once and for all.

I have written about packages often, and the industry figures of failure continue to rise. If we, as IT directors, leaders and project managers, do what we have always done, we will continue to get what we have always got.

It's time for change. A package is the best and most economic solution, providing everyone is clear about what it can and cannot do, from a business perspective.

Know what you are buying and only buy a package if you can install it with no changes whatsoever.

David Taylor is president of IT directors' association Certus

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