CEO Note: Changing Business Applications

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I was recently consulting with a client about one of their business applications. They had selected it over a year ago but they were now coming to terms with the fact that the app wasn’t meeting the needs of their organization. They were engaging me for some help and it made me think; how could I help others prevent headaches and staff frustration. This is an important topic for all leaders. I promise, if you read on, the information I share is 90% not about technology.

Nothing can be more distracting for a leader than disruptions to business processes. Senior managers struggling to get the their staff to use a new product or finding out later that they can’t see reports on the data they want. Avoiding frustration and possible business risk starts with managers. Taking some time to understand the needs of a department including critical data you need, can save everyone the disruption but future expense if a change has to be made.

If you or your team don’t think you have the right tools, consider starting your process with these helpful hints.

  1. Understand Your Core Processes: Get your managers to document the high level core process. The documentation is for you and their peers.
  2. Determine the Critical Steps in the Process: Have the manager of that process, identify critical steps in the process. These are the steps or stages where something requires collection of critical data, or may be time sensitive.
  3. Discuss departmental requirements for the process. The must have vs the nice to have. Sounds simple but most people don’t think about what the requirements are to run an operation. Other managers may have some opinions of what they need to operate effectively.
  4. Combine your findings into a requirements document. You’ll use the document to evaluate options for your business application.

When proceeding past this step, it is often helpful to use third party review sites. No one site or resource is enough to determine the viability of one product or another. Use your findings for questions to vendors and reference. I find that vendors appreciate the opportunity to address open review questions.

Finally, you’ll want to include a list of technical requirements. Your IT provider or staff should be able to provide you guidance on what to consider. My recommendation is that you include three requirements at minimum:

  • An open, published web API (Application Programming Interface)
  • Documentation that is publicly available online
  • Support for the API

Many software providers will offer an API, but it may only be accessible in a paid or higher tier offering. Be sure to know that before you make your selection.