09 December 2009

The New ERP – Part 22

What else might change the value proposition of a technology initiative?

We have already pointed out the foibles of the traditional "aim-and-shoot" approach to IT initiatives and their proclivity toward considering every matter in terms of "cost," rather than "value." (See prior post in this series.) We even pointed out some of the factors that may change the value proposition for an IT initiative well after the project launch. But, what else might have an effect on the value proposition of an IT project aimed at "improving" a company like yours?

Earlier we mentioned things like the introduction of new products, changes in the economy, or even public policy changes that might change the value proposition for a technology deployment. Now, however, we need to turn our eye to technology-specific elements that might also affect the value proposition of a project already underway.

I am not sure why, but my more than 25 years in dealing with business technologies has clearly proven to me that firms reaching out to make technology purchases assume (far too frequently) some measure of clairvoyance on the part of their technology vendors. It is clear, and the purchasing companies' management teams seem to recognize, that they cannot know everything there is to know about the technology they are buying. However, that same management team will somehow come to the tacit conclusion that the technology vendor must know and understand all there is to know about the company that wishes to buy and deploy their technology.

Okay! Maybe I'm exaggerating; but just a tiny bit.

The managers on the buying side may not actually assume that the vendor's team understands or knows everything about the buying company's firm and operations, but they generally do assume that the vendor's team knows and understands enough about the prospective purchaser's company and operations to ask every possible question in order to assure that every facet of the product or services provided will fit precisely the customer's expectations. Never mind that "expectations" are never plainly visible to either party in the transaction. Expectations far transcend anything placed in any agreement or "requirements" document. Expectations may be reduced to the number of mouse-clicks it takes to navigate a certain transaction, or the "look-and-feel" of screens, or where data is placed in the user interface. The list of expectations is, literally, without end. In fact, the purchasers themselves may not know or be able to articulate their expectations. They only know when their expectations have not been met.

The point is this: As a buyer, you and your management team need to recognize that, when first engaging a technology vendor, the vendor knows proportionately as little about every facet and detail of your enterprise as you know about every facet and detail of their technology and services. In essence, you have witnessed "a demo" of their technology and they have experienced "a demo" of what your company is like. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you, as the buyer, to beware – caveat emptor. You and your team must thoroughly and precisely know what you want and need the technology vendor to do in order to effect the change you have in mind – the change derived from your Current Reality Tree that will help your company reach more of its goal of making more money.

At this point, an "on the other hand" would be nice to hear. Am I right?

On the other hand, there actually is an upside to this mutual blindness between technology seller and technology buyer. Frequently I have experienced situations where, as the vendor and the buyer learned more about each other's technologies (on the one side) and operational requirements (on the other), fresh new insights emerged about how the buying firm could leverage to great advantage previously undisclosed features or functions in the technology. A management team employing the value-based New ERP approach can readily see that the presence of some unanticipated feature, function or capability might radically increase the value proposition to the organization. Unfortunately, this kind of value serendipity is sometimes missed entirely by tradition-bound managers and vendors totally enmeshed in "meeting documented requirements," deadlines and budgets.

[To be continued]

©2008, 2009 Richard D. Cushing

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