As the pandemic hopefully loosens its grip on the country and the world, we can imagine ourselves in the following situation.
Agility and efficiency
You pick up your mobile phone and tap on the symbol to order a trip. It’s easy to choose which route you want to take and where. Once you’ve found the trip you want, press pay. You’ll get confirmation of the payment and swosh, it’s gone through and your previously deposited credit card is charged.
When the card invoice arrives, it will be sent to you via one of the electronic mailboxes you have. There you can quickly reconcile the invoice and then confirm that payment should be made in your bank. All this is possible because you have already set up the link between the mailbox and the bank.
Unless you have direct debit, of course, because then it was even easier to pay.
It didn’t used to be like this
Thirty years ago it was completely different. I myself remember how I had to send a paper order or call the travel agency that was located in the building next door to the science park I worked in. When they got the papers, they called me to check how to book. I sat on the phone for 10-15 minutes to choose departures and seats, as well as tickets for several modes of travel, such as air taxi, air and train.
If I then paid myself, the payment was made by filling in a payment order on a piece of paper, where I had to copy all the necessary information from the payment card on the invoice to the payment order. Then I put all the payment cards in the same envelope and I had to hand it in, or send it in, to the bank.
If it was a business trip, I had to certify the travel invoice by putting it in my mailbox and then leaving it in another mailbox for payment.
Puffs and moans.
Why are some still in the 90s?
But what is happening in many businesses today? Well, it’s as slow as it was 30 years ago. Very little has actually happened. You live with systems whose suppliers are protectionist about “their business” in order to seek market dominance. This at your expense.
The dominance you seek means that you want everything for yourself. Somewhere in the future, they see themselves expanding their system to handle even more than it does today. The goal is to offer everything a business needs. All in one system from one supplier, i.e. themselves.
I’m reminded of the expression in one of the Matrix movies where Agent Smith calls in more of himself to fight the film’s hero, Neo; “More me, even more me!” 🙂
Suppliers lock users in
Back to the systems in the business, where the vendor expects the users to wait for them to come up with more features…so on and on. Or rather, users are forced to wait.
It does so by being protectionist. Everything is done to protect the “brilliant” idea of gaining dominance in its market. The lock-in effect is clear, both as a strategy and as a reality from the users’ point of view.
This hurts you and your business. But how can you let this happen?
Poor requirements and monopoly
Well, it’s a combination of the fact that you haven’t made the right demands in your procurement and that in some places it’s almost a monopoly. One supplier I checked out the other day boasts that it has 90% of all Swedish municipalities as customers. 90%!
Of course, you don’t have to make an effort to be innovative. Because where should all the poor customers who are not satisfied and possibly thinking of switching go?
Here you need to be able to handle both the situation you are in today and the situation you will be in tomorrow.
Sewing without stopping
The current situation calls for you to lie to the system providers that you want access to their systems for, for example, integration with other systems. You absolutely must not capitulate to the smoke and mirrors that are often used in the form of:
- We’ll have to address that at the user meeting in the spring. (That is, we postpone the problems.)
- We’ll see who else of our customers might want that feature. (Weak commitment and makes you owe the answer…if anyone remembers the question.)
- That’s not really possible because of … (some technical explanation that makes the non-technical person overwhelmed by mumbo-jumbo).
- It will cost you so much that you won’t be able to afford it. (Yes, I’ve heard that explanation, where the supplier makes the decision on behalf of the customer about what is expensive and what is not.)
- And so on.
Do you have any “funny” argument you heard from your system provider(s)? Please email me back on this post.
System owner is a comprehensive mission
You need to have one or more people who are interested in pursuing the issue based on business requirements. These individuals need to be more on the side of the business than allied with the supplier. They have to be “difficult” with the supplier and knowledgeable about the system and technology.
Overall, it is cheaper for the business to have one person focusing on being the system owner and requirements setter for the suppliers. The latter must also have the technical knowledge mentioned above. This is in contrast to having a system owner who actually has mainly other tasks and then is a system owner “on the side”.
If they don’t have enough time, they can’t manage the business’ issues with suppliers. If they have too few skills, they will not be able to argue enough for the business case, but will be eaten up with the above-mentioned smoke and mirrors.
How do you work with the system owner; do they have the time and knowledge they need to represent the business requirements in a good way?
Requirements must be better
Looking ahead, you need to set the right requirements for future procurements. In addition to the purely functional part of procuring systems, you need to demand transparency and flexibility in the system. Systems must be able to talk to other systems. It must be a must-requirement. (More on that in next week’s letter.)
Another reason why it still looks like it did 30 years ago is that it is not innovative enough. In many businesses, there has never been the right drive to work on innovation. It needs to exist in order to get out of the current state and “into the future”.
I will address this further in the next weekly newsletter. Thought to touch on some areas of innovation and systems that should be considered in all activities.
How do you feel your requirements have been and how do you ensure they will be better in the future?
Do you want support in your thoughts?
Would you like to discuss what your system environment looks like and what you would need to take the next step in development? You may be a frustrated system owner or an equally frustrated business developer. Then get in touch and we can talk. You can reach me as usual by replying again to this email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling me on 070-528 52 61.
If nothing else, I’ll talk to you next Sunday and I wish you a great autumn week until then.