by Stuart Cross

An IT Solution Is The Last Thing You Should Offer

Dec 05, 20113 mins
IT Strategy

The issues and challenges come so thick and fast to you and your team that I’m sure, at times, it’s tempting to tell your colleagues just where to go.

Personally, I don’t think that this would be such a bad idea.

In my experience many IT solutions are needlessly implemented and are simply a right answer to the wrong question.

Consider these three examples from my clients in 2011:

• The customer service team of a manufacturing business is struggling to meet its call management targets. External consultants are appointed and they recommend the implementation of a new call management system. • A high street retailer is seeking to turn its loss-making on-line business into a profitable channel. The internal team believes that new customer-facing systems that enable ‘click and collect’ are the way to make this happen. • A retail business is looking to manage a portfolio of major strategic initiatives more effectively than it has achieved in the past. The new head of programmes recommends that new project management systems should be used across the business to improve disciplines and performance.

In each of the cases new systems were, at best, only part of the answer. The manufacturing business, for example, implemented the new system but failed to see any performance improvements.

As the — increasingly exasperated — CEO investigated further, he realised that the real reason for the poor performance was not the systems, but the management and leadership of the team.

He replaced the team leader and performance improved almost overnight.

The high street retailer did benefit from implementing new customer-facing systems, but the key reason its on-line business is now profitable is as a result of improvements to its fulfilment processes.

Finally, the retail business that was struggling to deliver its strategic initiatives merely needed to raise the profile of these projects.

A monthly review meeting chaired by the CEO has step-changed levels of accountability and ensured that key milestones are delivered in line with the plan, in ways that new systems could never have achieved.

If you don’t have this in place already — and not many of clients do — my recommendation is for you to have a small non-technical team that can work with your business clients and partners to help develop and deliver non-IT solutions to the issues and opportunities they raise.

Only in instances where non-IT solutions have been exhausted should you look to create IT-based responses.

In smaller businesses this role may take only part of someone’s time, whereas in larger organisations you may need a small, rapid response team.

Not only will this approach save your technical teams from wasted time and effort, but it will also demonstrate to your business colleagues that you and your team have a real understanding of their issues and can deliver rapid, pragmatic solutions, whether or not new systems are required.