There is no denying that IT is a huge part of our business today and is offering new opportunities and improvement we hadn’t even considered 10 years ago. The way businesses have changed is leading to IT becoming the default port of call when an issue needs a solution, but is this leading to businesses overlooking more obvious solutions?
From my personal experience, I have seen a number of projects where business requirements for software blurs from how the software can help deliver value, to how it can be used to ensure staff do their job. Clearly IT is there to make our lives easier and having a system remind you to do a task, or alert you when someone else has completed a task is not only useful, it provides a huge benefits. On the other hand, requirements can go to the level of controlling staff who can’t follow a process, or requesting IT solutions where the benefits do not cover the cost of implementing the solution.
A few examples come to mind:-
1. An existing system prompted a user to select the type of data to be entered, which 90% of the time was of a single type. Users got used to the message box and began to select the wrong data type 10% of the time. The manager asked for the software to be altered to require another confirmation from the user. Clearly this is evolving the system around failures in how data is entered into the system. Making this change is clearly wrong and will fail at ensuring the user enters the correct data type.
2. During the definition of an existing process in a new system; the business identified that several steps in the existing process cause issues due to people not completing them. Capturing these events ensure that these tasks are completed as a natural step in supporting the process. As the process varies, the system allows users to add / edit / delete events. This caused concern within the business as it allowed users to remove what are considered to be key events. This is another case of altering the system to try and cover up issues in staff following processes.
3. A team has two meeting rooms, issues began to occur due to the lack of a booking schedule. The team solution was to request an electronic room booking system. Whilst this will provide what is required, it does take time and cost to arrange and in this case involved multiple departments to achieve. As there are only two rooms, it could have easily been solved with basic schedule sheets available on the wall next to each room.
For me, this just highlights the need for IT professionals to understand the business and the project and be able to advise them where IT isn’t always the best solution.