As an IT/IS project manager, I am often involved in the selection of business software. The RFP is a key component of any large purchase, as it allows us to compare several systems against a set of common requirements, including business, technical, cost, and support.
But it doesn’t go far enough.
It’s easy to focus on marketing, finance, and the end user requirements. But what about infrastructure, manufacturing, or field technicians? How about quality control or customer service? We need to gather input from the teams down the length of the entire value chain.
I’ve been in situations where two systems look great: functionality, front end, and cost all are where we need them to be. Vendors, of course, talk a good game. Their RFP responses look similar. On the surface they’re both shiny new sportscars with all the latest gadgets.
But then the technical folks get in there and check under the hood. They find one still has an engine circa 1980! There’s no way this will work in your organization. You don’t have the resources to maintain the servers or update the desktop-based application. And it makes no sense to revert your users to 32-bit!
Good thing you included the tech folks before you signed the contract.
But not all projects involve software.
Years ago, our company was struggling because our manufacturing costs were consistently high. A review of our new product development process revealed that the problem wasn’t our product, and it wasn’t the skill of our manufacturing team. It was the NPD process itself.
R&D would design a product, test it in their small, flexible lab, and hand it over as a defined product. They weren’t aware of the constraints of large-scale manufacturing. No one asked them how long it would take to change over a line.
Manufacturing was not involved in the process until the very end. They had no input! The result was a product that worked as designed but could have been made at half the cost if only someone had checked with them first.
In the software example, it is wise to plan for a technical deep dive with the vendor finalists. We don’t want to bring them in too early, before we’ve finished analysis on other areas. But adding this tech review as a normal part of our software selection process can eliminate years of headaches for end users, IT, and you!
For product development, we want to make sure all areas of the value chain are involved in the NPD process. That doesn’t mean Support has equal say in the design as R&D, of course, but reviewing early and keeping them in the loop can keep you from launching a product that’s unsupportable.
All projects rely on communication through the whole value chain, at each phase of a project. Pull in the experts when it makes sense and plan to make adjustments. Reach out to teams you don’t traditionally include. And be prepared for a better outcome!