Solving Business Problems vs. Implementing Technology
Our role as managers of systems and technology is to provide solutions to real business problems for our clients, whether they are internal or external. This does not automatically mean implementing new technology or new systems.
Our role as managers of systems and technology is to provide solutions to real business problems for our clients, whether they are internal or external. This does not automatically mean implementing new technology or new systems. Sometimes it means showing them an alternative way to do things. Or, it may be encouraging them to live with the status quo, if there is no appropriate alternative.
I’d like to use a personal experience to illustrate the point. I engaged a gutter repair company to resolve some issues I was having. My roof gutters weren’t draining properly. The water overflow was leaking out of faulty plastic gutter joints, which had drifted apart over time, and was damaging the soffits.
Internal gutter systems are difficult to work on and it took ages to find a specialist company who was interested in helping. I explained the issues and was advised that I needed to replace the original plastic gutters with metal ones. I am not a construction expert, so assumed that the advice of my trusted gutter advisers would solve my problem. I accepted the proposal and arranged for them to replace the guttering.
They did a very good job. The gutters look good and have been installed expertly. However, when I checked the gutters after the first rain and found that they were half full of water on one side of the house! They weren’t leaking any more, but they weren’t draining either. The experts had implemented a great system expertly, but they hadn’t solved my problem. I was very disappointed in the outcome.
So, what has this to do with managing technology? The parallels are obvious. As CIOs, CTOs or IT Managers, we are experts in our field for those to whom we provide a service, whether they are internal departments or external clients. They rely on us to give them the correct advice to solve their business problems using appropriate technology. The number of failed IT projects, whether they have been cancelled, run over budget or over time, or simply have not worked after implementation, would suggest that we are getting it wrong a lot of the time.
There are a number of reasons why we get it wrong, but the main reason is that we often don’t understand our businesses well enough and, therefore, don’t fully understand the problems we are being asked to solve. Instead of hearing: “I have this particular problem with my business process”, we hear: “I want you to implement this system or technology”. This is exacerbated by the fact that we are too quick to rely on our vendors instead of researching a range of solutions and determining the most appropriate ourselves. As experts, our role is to determine a range of solutions, identify the cost of each, the risks associated with each and the compromises required as a result of implementing each of them. We should also recommend one more appropriate than the others. And all of this should be done in language that is easy to understand, not technical jargon. Above all, the options must address the problem the business is facing, not just implement something.
Having presented this information professionally and impartially, we need to respect the choice made by our clients. If we have done our job properly they will have the information they need to make the right decision, even if it is not to implement the solution we recommend. Whatever that decision, we can satisfy ourselves that we have done our job professionally. The next step is to fully support the decision and do all we can to deliver the chosen solution.
Going back to the gutters. I have spoken to the company that implemented my “solution”. I am satisfied that I have probably got the best solution I could under the circumstances. Had I been given all the information up front, I may still have decided to implement it. From my point of view, I accepted a proposal without its limitations being adequately explained. That, inevitably, led to my disappointment with the implementation.
Let’s not make the same mistake with our clients.