The difference between systems and systems

So you have decided that you want to adopt a new system. Of course you rush to the IT guys and tell them. The CIO puts his arm around your shoulder and tells you he’s all over it. No problem!

The vendors get the invite, and come in with glossy brochures, slick demos, and tales of past successes. Who knows, maybe they really have the cure to climate change and peak hour traffic (or better yet, how to get that fancy new video conferencing system to connect) in that slim laptop on your boardroom table! Surely those horror stories of dramatic cost and schedule overruns elsewhere couldn’t happen to you, because you are different.

Fast forward a few months and the first cracks are starting to show. Where did all these people come from? Why does a new system need so many people to install? Don’t you just put the CD-ROM in and hit “install”?

Will Durant, the famous American Philosopher and author once said “The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.” That is the unfortunate truth of many decision making processes when it comes to systems. Many executives make decisions based on the idea that a system simply means an IT platform. The problem with that logic is that an IT platform is really just the enabler for your system. The network of ideas, decisions, tasks, people, activities, products and processes, as well as all of the controls for these that make your business successful are your system. Forget this at your peril! When I’ve helped design and implement systems like SAP or Oracle my description to the business is simple. It will act as an amplifier for the quality of your business processes. If you have terrific processes that are streamlined and everyone loves then great!

If not…..well….most of you may already understand the reality!

When you feel you need to improve or change it is tempting to run to the IT crowd for your solution. The best guide on the delight factors and pain points of your business though are your customers and the people who work to deliver the products and services for those customers.

Sometimes you need a new IT system. More often than not there is great value in first looking at your system of doing business first and making sure that it does what you and your customers want, when they want it to!

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Nathan Jones

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