I wanted to share with you some experience when it comes to changing your production software, and the challenges you may face as an organization that i hope will help you anticipate and successfully implement your vision. But first, let me explain the context.
You started with a few key people, put a system in place to communicate, share client information and control budgets. In some instances, you are IT savvy enough to know what tools you want to use for a specific need, in others you keep it simple but efficient (excel, access, evernote..). When there is information missing… well that’s ok, because you can talk to each other and figure it out.
Your organization has grown quickly. You focused primarily on growth, and you succeeded ! Proof that no fancy tool is needed for that. Only problem is now you have less time to communicate the procedures and how-to of the systems you designed. No one owns the internal tools really, so information gets added here and there, and chances are there is a few new internal tools some of you adopted for a specific need that’s now part of the equation. Everyone is busy, new things are introduced, no real guidelines are established. But it works.
So now you have even more people working with you, and even more projects. You are struggling as a company to deliver a consistent product as there is no real guidelines on how to do so : people are coming and going, templates change all the time, clients want new things which often means your internal tools are getting modified by a few people without proper communication internally…You realize you now need to emphasize on documentation : the company’s production methodology has changed and you have overused your internal tools. It’s time to consider a change !
Why : It sounds logical in theory, but in practice it’s much harder. You know tools are not adapted, or missing. but why ? try to actually start an actual analysis like you would do for one of your clients. You are your own client in this project, and as such you should take the same approach you would take with a client. In the analysis document, identify not only why the tools are not adapted, but why they wouldn’t sustain the growth of your company. It could be the time lost using it, the money in developing new feature, or it could also well be that the tools are sufficient for the team, but not for what clients expect. The point is, make sure you are actually identifying the core issues of the problem (you can count them on one hand), and not just the peripheral problems
What : By stating what you want, you will then be able to identify what you need. But first take your previously identified core issues, and look at where you expect to be as a business. Look at competitors, look at the industry, think about the key components your tools need to satisfy your needs to deliver a great service, as well as align your team as one. Simplicity should always be kept in mind , and it is necessary that you really think the simplest way to use these tools to their purpose. Remember that software does not do magic : you have to also elaborate the process you want to use moving forward, and this needs to be what your organisation needs, not what the tools can do. You will evaluate this later.
How : There are a lot of software nowadays available on the market. Cloud-based, onsite, industry-specific, open and customizable… You now need to find the right tool for your need and overlay your requirements on top of what’s available today. For me, simplicity of usage, community and professional support, extensibility and total cost of ownership were the main factors, alongside with functionalities of course. Costs can be a deciding factor, so remember to properly evaluate all the variables of inefficiencies currently, and to quantify their impact in time and money. Putting direct and indirect costs in perspective sometimes helps realizing that some software are actually decently priced compared to what you are really paying today all things considered.
When : You then need to setup a timeline for your project that’s as realistic as possible..Then add 30% more time. It’s a reality, this takes time. Think about the order of your implementation in logical way, but also try to avoid a critical cutoff dates. Your implementation needs to be smoothly transitioning, with a mix of old and new. A sharp cut involves impacting your production team, and if you are reading this chances are you are spread thin and cannot afford month and month of training and testing. So take it slow.
When going through change in a fast paced environment, there are some shortcuts that are dangerous, and i invite you to consider the following elements in your project :
As your company grows, your model improves, your procedures evolve, your staff learns and your clientele changes Whether you keep investing internally in your own development, or you over-customized a tool, any company comes at some point to having these discussions. As you elaborate solutions, remember to focus on structuring your processes and aligning your people first, and the elaboration of a solution to support this strategy will be facilitated.
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