Forget Technology: Solve Your Business Problems First PDF Print E-mail
Career - General
Written by 10gen Inc.   
Saturday, 08 December 2007 18:01

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Create a Business Design Document

Prepare a document as a blueprint for the project, identifying goals, processes, responsibilities, and measures. Working from a document that defines the scope of the project is a necessary tool; it validates agreement from those involved internally and is invaluable when discussing your needs with potential vendors and when measuring results. Such a document provides the opportunity to officially define project roles and responsibilities, which gives both direction and accountability. Specific components are associated with creating a usable business design.

Detail Project Goals and Expected Changes

·        Detail current and updated workflow with expected improvements.

·        Designate a level of importance for each feature and function impacted.

Identify Project Roles and Responsibilities

·        Select a project sponsor responsible for serving as a liaison between project leaders and the company's executive body.

·        Determine the role each department will have in the implementation project and identify the assigned project contact.           

·        Assign an overall project leader responsible for keeping the project moving forward.

·        Set forth implementation milestones, often designed around business drivers, budget, and decision timelines.

Outline Expected Cost-Justification for the Project

In order to calculate cost savings, during the discovery meetings it is important to assign a scribe to notate areas where costs could be eliminated or reduced by deploying the proposed changes.

 

The creation of such a document can be accomplished by following the "Seven Critical Steps for Technology Implementations," outlined below. Note that although they're listed in linear fashion, it is common for organizations to go back and forth among the steps until they have fully explored all questions and drawn out what they believe is a comprehensive business design. Use the process to your advantage and let it serve as a guideline.

Research and Analyze

Project leaders must fully understand both the problem to solve and the end-to-end processes and functions targeted for change.

1. Understand the Problem

Jumping in and buying technology before fully understanding the business problem along with its related processes and other factors impacted by the proposed tool will almost certainly lead to sub-optimal results. Analyses of the problem and process should be documented not as they are perceived by executives, but rather as they are actually practiced by front-line staff. It takes time and effort to collaborate both intra- and inter-departmentally to update current business processes and develop concise goals for the project. A success model for a technology implementation involves clearly identified steps.

2. Identify Goals and Requirements

In addition to identifying project goals, it is equally important to establish why changes are being implemented. Investing time to ensure that the reason for the project is clearly identified will provide significant benefit in getting organizational buy-in and realizing the anticipated outcomes. Many times during the discovery steps, such as while mapping current processes, the goals and requirements change, but it is important to start by asking and answering key questions:

 

·        What are the manual steps in the process?

·        Can the process be automated?

·        Can the process be centralized?

·        How are critical business documents (e.g., purchase orders, invoices, checks) being handled, and are there areas for improvement?

 

·        How are checks signed?

·        Who needs to review and approve POs and invoices?

·        How do you file and retrieve the documents and information?

3. Map the Current Process

Walk through each step with those who routinely follow the process. A full understanding of the "real" workflow up front is crucial in selecting the right areas for focused improvement efforts. The same questions you asked in the previous step should also be asked here, as they relate to your pain points and the way you do things today.

 

Identify touch points. Evaluate how selected processes and functions interact with other areas of the business. Reach out and ensure there is complete understanding of the interaction and determine whether it is currently working or in need of modification. Assess systems/software that are utilized in the current workflow and meet with those people responsible for managing them internally, as well as users, to fully understand how the systems/software integrate into the overall process. Gaining full understanding and consensus among all team members will help ensure adoption of the ultimate solution.

4. Design the Solution

A good brief will not only validate the workflow in its "current state," but also paint a picture of how the proposed solution will save steps and improve the process. The solution design can be either a list of how the steps in the process will work or a flowchart (usually the chosen method) depicting the ideal scenario.

 

Dare to dream! To paint a clear picture of the desired "future state," it is essential to allow a forum for free-flowing ideas without being limited by specific software functionality or hardware limitations. Collaborate with front-line staff and managers to explore how the proposed changes should modify the current business flow, and fully document expected improvements. Note areas of anticipated productivity gains in terms of staff time saved, shortened time to deliver goods and services, and/or an increase in production volume of goods and services.

5. Calculate ROI

Once a design is sketched out, it's time to associate numbers with anticipated areas of cost savings. Here are some examples:

 

Hard Savings

 

·        Business operating costs

·        Reduction in infrastructure costs

·        Increased in productivity measured by man hours saved

·        Increased cash flow

·        Reduction by attrition or flat growth in personnel

 

Soft Savings

 

·        Improved customer service (higher customer satisfaction)

·        Better and faster access to information

·        Faster internal communications

 

 

Determine timeframes for realizing identified savings and create a spreadsheet to include in the document. A comprehensive ROI will be calculated once a full evaluation is completed with the chosen vendor partner.

6. Document and Present

This step helps solidify the ideas, goals, analysis, and all other steps taken in the project. Revisiting the project gives other people an opportunity to review the business design as a whole (some people may have participated in only parts of this process) and ensures everyone is on the same page. Once a vendor is selected, this document is used as a tool to hold the solution provider accountable.

 

Investigate solution providers that can meet requirements outlined in the business design document. What you should look for is a solution provider you can establish a partnership with. This means you both have high stakes in the successful completion of the project and fully understand the goals, requirements, and expected ROI. Share your business design with the solution provider (or even better, ask them to help you create one) and watch out for those who dismiss it and want to get into the technical details too quickly. That is the trap to avoid in any technology implementation and the reason why so many projects fail. Use the business design to guide your selection of solution providers. As they start giving you information about how their solutions can address your goals and requirements, you can start using that to draw the technical design, detailing how things will get accomplished.

7. Kick Off the Technical Design

Many such projects start off with this step. However, until a comprehensive business design is completed, determining the technology solution is much like reading a book of fiction. A full technical design has its own seven steps, and the finished document is the roadmap for a successful implementation.

The Time to Start Is Now

Technology implementations take time and a lot of effort, especially if they involve changing the way people do things. As a result, CRM, ERP, and SCM systems and similar such tools are among the most costly and incur high failure rates due to exactly this problem: people! Involving all stakeholders while developing the business design and then the technical design will only help gain necessary support for the technological change that is inevitable.

 

Skipping the business design and diving into the implementation directly only leads to familiar pitfalls:

 

·        Resistance from users on changing the way they usually do things

·        System-integration issues

·        Short-term focus, sacrificing long-term viability

·        Limited, undefined, and misunderstood scope

·        Missed deadlines

 

Proper planning is the safest method to ensure expected outcomes are achieved for the users, managers, and people deploying the solution. Only then can the right technologies be selected and implemented optimally.

 


10gen Inc.
About the Author:

10gen is the initiator, contributor and continual sponsor of MongoDB, offering production support, training, consulting and online management services for the database. Thousands of leading Web 2.0 companies, as well as major Fortune 500 enterprises, have adopted MongoDB. 10gen is funded by Flybridge Capital, Sequoia Capital and Union Square Ventures, which will be used to address the growing global demand for MongoDB across enterprises customers. For more information, visit www.10gen.com or www.mongodb.org.

 

 

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