Monday, March 15, 2010

When the pen is mightier than knowledge!

The title is a mere analogy I have drawn, the topic of the post is more to do with IT and IT consulting.
I have done 2 green field implementations, one in Telecom domain in India and one in pharmaceutical retail in the UK. Most of my dwelling has been in the Marketing and Sales Force Automation (SFA) space in both these implementations. While the Telecom implementation was in PeopleSoft CRM, the retail implementation was in the Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) domain.
When we first started with the Indian implementation, we faced major challenges like loosely defined processes, inadequate change management, untrained staff etc. It is here that I first thought if IT could really help our customer to achieve what they wanted - A better CRM? On a post dinner walk then it struck me. The Director of IISC
Bengaluru had once said in one of his speeches - "e-governance is not about IT. IT is just a tool. e-governance should first start with a willingness to change"
This is the exact point that lacked in the Indian company where were doing the implementation. I blamed it on the company for being typically desi and rushing into an IT implementation just because all the competitors were having new roll-outs. In some of the meeting, I even felt like this company was like a rich spoilt socialite that wanted a car because everyone else had it.
But then when I went to UK for an implementation, I realised it had nothing to do with being desi. almost everyone was the same. Brits being one of the most thoughtful and deliberating individuals had decided on a product to implement without a change management process in place.
Without a proper process study, user awareness/education and change management process all IT companies can at best be 50-60% effective. In most implementations, nobody has a freaking idea how to calculate the ROI of this implementation leave alone judging if it is satisfactory or not. Moreover, whether the implementation will change any processes, how to sell this change to users, how to speed up the change are some vital issues that I have never heard being discussed. While everybody is busy designing integration points, scheduling batch programs and coding to customize a certain business requirement, when the users are exposed to this change they are left bewildered.
In my opinion, the first this that should be undertaken before beginning of an IT implementation is a process study exercise. This should be followed by a change management planning exercise that will lay out the focus areas where change is likely to occur, the extent of this change and how to make this change smooth. The users should be taken into confidence well before the implementation begins so that they know the extent of their involvement in the implementation and can plan their work accordingly. This also helps them to gear up their thought process so that they have a mental note of FAQs that they may need to answer. Through the implementation until the go-live and even post, the change management plan should be followed.
IT being just a tool to help things happen faster, easier and accurate, needs to play a supportive role to this change process. The scene appears very different today though. Everybody seems to be emphasizing hell of a lot on whether the computing happens in the clouds or the oceans, or whether the product needs an upgrade. These are just the tools and should not become mightier than the business itself!