One of the biggest decisions a firm makes when considering an IT change investment is whether to build the new system in-house or implement an off the shelf product. Historically, it has been the long-debated and commonly known advantages and disadvantages that have made much of the rationale behind this decision, but as the world moves forward today’s climate demands a new consideration – is this solution best for the business or the IT department?
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” Steve Jobs
Today the world is more complex than ever and simplicity can be difficult to find. This is especially true when considering the internal operations of a firm. Inorganic growth is common and can bring together companies with different systems and business processes. The objective of any IT investment should be to bring these processes and systems in line, enabling the firm to be globally integrated across borders, divisions and acquisitions. In this situation, an off the shelf solution can provide a method of simplifying business processes according to industry best practice. However, for this to be successful it is vital that every division, function and region adopt the new processes and the new system.
Let’s take the example of a global ERP implementation. Off the shelf versions of packages such as SAP or Microsoft Dynamics will already have the industry-leading processes loaded as standard. The business can then be modified to fit these simplified processes. The cost to the business of going through this often-painful process dwarves the return possible through a simplified business model with global integration. The ROI from industry standard process adoption is also more productive than investing in complicated customisation effort to fit a system to current business processes - often the approach taken by businesses who focus on IT-led solutions.
The big hurdle in adopting a business led approach that is enabled by an IT change programme is resistance to change. Internal cultural norms can stifle impactful disruption. There are two components to overcoming this. Firstly, the leadership team and programme sponsors need to be strong in making the hard decisions around simple. People can become attached to their micro-processes and find it hard to let go. Secondly, they need to put change management at the forefront of the plan. Make employees feel they are part of the change and that individually they can make a real difference in achieving the overall outcomes.
This approach has seen great success in almost every industry sector and simplification now makes a genuine difference in ensuring organisations are agile enough to capitalise on opportunities in the fast-moving markets they trade in.
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