Why Technology Should Not Drive Business Change

I’ve seen instances where a Business will look to replace its legacy systems but falls short in terms of properly articulating why this is desired. When you talk to stakeholders, the drivers that tend to emerge are that the systems are old, aren’t flexible enough, and/or aren’t able to be maintained for much longer. These are all valid reasons but fail to address the underlying motive behind replacing legacy systems: the Business is looking to change and can’t do that given its current technical constraints.

The misstep that happens next is that the Business puts together an RFP based on current state instead of taking the time to understand the desired future state and the direction that the Business is looking to take to get there. It should come as no surprise then that RFP responses outline the replication of existing functionality with newer, faster technology but don’t answer questions related to supporting Business evolution. The disconnect between what is actually sought and what was asked for is one of the reasons projects overrun their budgets, extend their timelines, and reduce their scope. So how do we close this gap and help projects succeed?

A Business should begin by mapping its current state and immediately follow that exercise with mapping its desired future state. Throughout this whole process, the Business should engage its subject matter experts and leaders to determine how to improve the organization from the ground up. It’s likely that opportunities to improve will emerge without the need for putting new technology in place and can be capitalized on. This alone will help instill ownership of current and future state processes and ease the organization into embracing large-scale changes. Once the future state requirements have been outlined, only then should the Business issue an RFP. The responses received will address the feasibility of what the Business is actually looking for, more accurately estimate the cost and timeline of the project, and allow the Business to make an informed decision when selecting a vendor. With the vendor selected, a thorough fit-gap analysis should be performed to properly understand where the gaps are in the solution and determine which requirements are must-haves versus nice-to-haves. The project can then proceed with a clear direction, well-understood requirements, and confidence in a successful delivery.

Too often, people get caught up in the perceived promise that new technology brings. The reality is that technology doesn’t drive change, the Business drives change; technology simply enables and supports it.

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