Mike would like to thank Brian Litofsky of Palladium Group for his contribution to this column.
Over the past months, Peter Graham and I have covered a range of topics associated with building an information-empowered organization. I am pleased to be taking over the column beginning with this important discusssion on tools. Too often, excess emphasis is placed on the tool or vendor, with little effort spent on selection and adoption. This month, I will cover the most important aspects of performance management tools: best practices in selection, alignment to enterprise needs, migration from disparate toolsets and adoption and support of enterprise information tools.
Best Practices in Tool Selection
It is important to recognize initially whether a tool evaluation process is needed, and if so, what type. There may be disagreement or little understanding of the proposed options. In rare cases, the tool decision has been made, and all thats required is validation. In any circumstance, an evaluation process should be carefully designed that matches the type of selection needed. Considerations include:
- Establishment of the short list - include currently leveraged tools, but also consider application and project budget.
- Participants - identify as influencers versus deciders.
- Depth and breadth of requirements - both users and IT have relevant needs.
- Tool evaluation - decide to allow vendors to demo or require them to build a proof of concept (POC).
- Criteria for decision - consider that all requirements are not equal. Weighting should reflect the priorities and magnitude of individual items.
Initial time spent designing the evaluation process will return great dividends. Tool implementation partners can be great assets, and in some cases manage this process, because they are experienced and willing to identify gaps in the pursuit of a long-term implementation partnership. Care should be exercised to select a partner with a wide variety of tool experience to reduce bias.
Alignment to Enterprise Needs
Too often, I hear stories of how disparate toolsets have evolved across departments. In large companies, as many as eight or 10 redundant tools can exist for reporting and analysis. There are typically multiple planning tools as well. Standardization of toolsets is commonly accepted as a better approach, and with software consolidations it is now easier to accomplish. Many benefits to a standard corporate performance management (CPM) package exist including lower maintenance costs, common support skills and more seamless integration of the presentation layer. The selected tool must also meet the requirements for the business, and in some cases, that could require an exception.
The organization must first define its standard for alignment, including whether the project must use the same tool configured the same way or if other similar tools are eligible for selection. These answers are unique to your company, often based on size, users and complexity. One common thread, however, is that the tool standardization decision should be made, communicated and enforced.
If your company chooses to standardize on a performance management toolset, the need to align requirements must be addressed. One key to standardization is to develop a process for proposing deviation. Managers that perceive a gap should put forth their requirements and clearly demonstrate that the gap exists. They should be heard and an applicable solution designed within the standard toolset. Another key is to eliminate shadow IT where tools are selected, purchased, installed and supported solely by business analysts. Putting the budget for projects within IT helps eliminate shadow IT groups, as does developing and communicating a severe disincentive to vendors that attempt to sell directly to business users.
Migration from Disparate Toolsets
If youve chosen an enterprise approach, a roadmap must be developed to migrate existing implementations to the standard toolset. This is the most difficult aspect of adoption. IT managers should identify and communicate the benefits of adoption to current users - perhaps an improved business process, an easier-to-use tool or something that could save time and/or money in the department. Sometimes the opportunity to reconfigure the implementation can be sold as a benefit. You must foster a perception of the new tool as an opportunity for the department to improve versus being forced to conform.
Adoption and Support
Whether new or migrated, the final key to success is to ensure a tools complete adoption. There are several ways to accomplish this:
- From selection to the production migration, be inclusive. Users that participate in the project are more likely to accept its result.
- Make sure the implementation actually meets its defined requirements.
- Train - not just on how to use the tool, but on why to use the tool. Develop and leverage use cases to ensure day-to-day business processes are transformed to leverage the new tool.
- Create advocates in the business. Super users who are involved in testing and training will be your front line in getting everyone else on board. Using these individuals in a phased rollout approach is best.
Make no mistake, the technology leveraged to empower your organization is important. However, with technological advances in recent years and the resultant number of high-quality tools available, the key to successful information empowerment typically lies not within the software, but in your approach to leveraging performance management tools as an organization.
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