Replacing systems is expensive and a lot of effort and hopefully it’s going to last you for a while.
If you stuff it up, you’re either going to be forced to admit to a costly error and start all over again or you’ll have to live with the mistake every day using a system that just doesn’t fit your business.
We have spoken before about what makes a system a good fit, but what happens when a system fulfills all these criteria but is still not the right fit for you?
Just like the fashion speak singular ‘great pant’ rather than ‘great pants’ there are certain quirks to fashion functionality that are big choices in systems.
We say, that when it comes to fashion, there are two types of systems; those that can handle the multi-dimensional product (by which we mean style, colour, size & fit) and those that cannot.
That’s it. The first decision point.
Choosing a system that doesn’t handle multi-dimensions is a conscious choice and it’s possible to force a system that only has two levels to manage the three or four that a fashion business usually requires but it’s just that. You’re forcing it.
And it doesn’t just start with implementation, you’ll be forcing it forever
I was reminded of this recently when doing a System Sense Check for a client. They are implementing a system that doesn’t handle the 3 or 4 dimensions, they are a fashion business.
It’s a struggle and in this situation the client had been sold on a system that WAS multi-dimensional, they thought it was all covered and taken care of. They are now a way down the road and reconsidering if they can live with or without this big piece of basic functionality.
So in the interests of saving others similar pain, here are some pointers to keep in mind when reviewing a system or considering a replacement.
To keep it easy we are staying with the T.I.C.K. convention.
T – is for Think!
Some Big picture, future thinking is needed when considering new systems. Think about the whole business and what the business drivers are for replacing a system.
A good practice is to write them down and stick them on the wall. Refer back to them often. It’s real easy to get distracted with shiny new, clever funky tools that do ‘x’. Unless your business really needs ‘x’ or wants to consider it in the next 3-5 years it’s a distraction. Focus on the core of what you need to do as a priority.
Think about other ways of doing things; part of reviewing systems is to reconsider process and re-adjustment. So often people get hung up on doing things a certain way just because that’s how they’re used to doing it. Don’t get stuck in this…
There may be other ways to do the same thing. Sometimes a compromise in one part of a system delivers better results in another area. Be mindful of this, one additional step in setting up a product may save five steps when costing the product.
Keep the 80: 20 principle in mind.
All things being equal if you can see how you can do the 80% of things that your business needs most often right now then you should be good. Things change, whatever you think you need today will move in time allow for this. Consider whether the software has what you think you need for possible future scenarios and make sure you see HOW to do these too.
A good system will usually have more than one way to do things. Having more than one way means you’ve got options.
Remember that just because the exact same steps are not required doesn’t mean that you can’t get the same outcome.
- Defined, clear business objectives
- Being Open
- Focus on outcomes (rather than the way we do things right now)
- Adopting the 80:20 rule
I – is for EYES
You need to see it with your own eyes. Don’t assume, don’t take it for granted and don’t think for one moment that when a software vendor says ‘yes it does that’ they understand how YOUR business does it.
Only you know how your business does it, and whilst the whole point of a new system is to challenge processes and to consider new options, it does need to fundamentally provide you with the same or better business tools.
Software vendors are not intentionally saying that they have something they don’t, or that their system does something that it doesn’t. 9 times out of 10 the mismatch of expectations comes down to interpretation. When asked does it do multi-dimensional products the supplier says ‘yes’ because they don’t actually understand that what is meant is ‘can I see all of the product colour size information across the page in one easy glance?’ which is what fashion users expect when they say multi-dimension product.
Any software supplier who has a good product should be able to demonstrate to you with your data (as long as you can provide it) HOW you will do a given process. Ask the question ‘can you show me?’ of as many parts of the system as you can.
C – is for checklist
You need to have a list; when comparing different systems a list of needs is super important, and it’s really not possible to remember to ask the same questions of each supplier.
Most of the people in your business are not expert at evaluating systems but they are expert at their jobs; as difficult as it is to be comprehensive a checklist of needs is essential.
It also saves the software supplier a heap of time. Systems by their very nature usually do lots more things than any one business will do. To be able to best guide you through using a specific system the software supplier should know what types of things you do (and don’t do) in your business and what parts are really important to you.
Larger businesses will prepare a RFP (or RFT) Request for Proposal or Tender. These documents typically take weeks or months to compile and take software suppliers and equally long time to respond to. If you’re not a larger business, having a simple checklist that considers each area of your business and can rate software solutions as a 1, 2 or 3 should be enough to get you through. Or at least get you a shortlist.
K – is for KPIs (the things you measure need to come from the system)
Start with reporting; show the software supplier what you want to get out of the system. You can’t get information OUT of a system unless it goes IN somehow. Makes sense right?
Pick your 3-5 most important reports for each area and make sure you can get them from the system. Make sure you understand what needs to go in to get the reports out.
The whole lifecycle of information capture needs to be considered. What works for the webstore team may not work for production or logistics. What the marketing people want to see is not the same as how finance want to look at things. If a system is going to touch every part of your business you need to have a representative from every part of the business with some skin in the game
Consider the future relationship and the vendors approach to your sector
Not only are you choosing something that is supposed to work with the functional areas of your business but you are also choosing a business partner; people who you will need to work with initially to get the system(s) in but also ongoing as business changes.
The attitude to future development and support is something that I encourage businesses to consider; sometimes attitude can make all the difference to solving a problem and you want to work with a partner who ‘gets it’.
Are these people specialist in your business sector? Do they have a proven record of being able to deliver? Are they in it for the long haul? What developments are they working on to meet the ever changing needs of technology?
To be able to make these choices really clearly you need to be in a place of clarity about where your business is right now, and where you want to take it over the next 3-5 (or more) years. So preparation is key, it’s a lot easier to select a good fit for your business if you are clear about what you want to achieve and what’s next for you.