Part 3: You are the Problem, Not Your Systems – will the real TCO please step forward!

In the 90s, I remember the promise of moving away from the collection of old legacy systems, with all of their custom code, batch jobs, patched-together interfaces, and into the new world of one completely integrated system that would run your entire company, seamlessly. Do you remember? What happened?  The Wizard of Oz is coming to mind here!

In part 1 of this series, I challenged you to look at your users and your processes.

In part 2 of this series, I walked through a sample of how you can look at what’s really happening in your processes.

Now, let’s look at systems. With each system, you have a short term and long term TCO (total cost of ownership).  Let’s play pretend. Your company has one system that runs all its operations. The interfaces are all built in, with a single source of data truth. One day, a department decides that they don’t really like how the system works for them. They think its clunky, not user-friendly, and they have found a system they believe will work really well for them. Their sales pitch is polished, including a complete ROI that looks like a gift from Santa himself. SOLD! Let’s get that project started. YIKES! What comes to mind for me are ALL the costs, not just the ones that are front and center.  Here’s my list:

  • Procurement and legal costs (new contracts, new vendor, new payment processing for license fees)
  • Change management campaign (external consulting if you don’t have the capability or bandwidth internally) – and let’s not talk about the cost of not doing this, that’s a whole post in itself!
  • Licensing (may be double here since your current system has the functionality licensing packaged in)
  • Servers (hardware, and don’t forget procurement costs, legal for contracts, warehouse costs – I mean, someone has to receive them and get them to IT, wiring and installation, testing)
  • Experts on the new system (external consulting)
  • Training for your IT/SME resources (hopefully you negotiated this in the contract, otherwise add more cost)
  • Data conversion (internal or external resources, tools, if you don’t have the tools, be sure to add procurement costs, legal for contracts, installation)
  • Interfaces and data translation tables (someone’s gotta build these, that data’s gotta flow, and flow accurately)
  • Testing (it’s not just about the cost of testing, it’s also about the cost of correcting what you missed in testing – but that never happens, right??? 😉
  • User training (external consulting most likely – unless you have Super Users who can save you 🙂
  • Maintenance and upgrades (don’t forget about upgrade compatibility with other systems)
  • What am I missing???  As if that’s not enough!

The call to action is, “get back to the basics”:

  1. Understand what’s really happening with your users and processes,
  2. Understand your core system capabilities and limitations, not just what you currently think and know, but TRUE capabilities and limitations,
  3. Gather your army of people on the front line, Super Users, who can help you with truly understanding the people and process needs that should be driving system decisions.

Maybe your first action should be to go get your prescription of patience, diligence, and education filled :).  You’re going to need it.

Next time, let’s talk about governance.

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