A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the real cost of fighter jets. However, before you can figure out the cost of a solution, you need to figure out what your solution options are. And the way to figure out your options is to define your needs.
As I write these blogs, I am always struck by how much they apply generally life as well as in making business decisions – this process works if you are looking for a new computer or phone, buying a house or shopping for a new outfit to wear to the party Saturday night.
So first, what are your needs? There are, of course, entire books on how to do this for computer systems, so I am just going to offer a couple of thoughts:
- Focus on outcomes, not on process. Remember what you are tying to accomplish - a fulfilled order or a completed product or a comfortable outfit that goes with my blue Louboutin pumps.
- Think creatively when identifying needs. Don’t worry so much about the current processes you follow today. Current processes are derived from system and business constraints and old habits. Take the opportunity to rethink how you do things and look for new approaches, practices and outcomes that may be enabled by new technology.
- Set priorities for your needs. Here is where you must be realistic. Know which features you will give up on if you have to pick, and which ones are must-haves.
- Don’t get caught up in sales patter and jazzy presentations. Keep an open mind, but keep focus on what you are trying to achieve and what you need to get there. Don’t let flashy demos distract you from what you need and are looking for.
The second piece is to identify possible solutions that meet your needs.
- Scan the marketplace – go to trade shows, search the internet, talk to your business partners, leverage your personal alliances to find out what’s out there. Consider your existing relationships with vendors that you might want to extend.
- Look for vendors who want your business – so that you are just as important to them as they are to you.
- Consider (even for only a few minutes) all possible options. If you are looking at a software solution, consider in-house builds as well as commercial products, if only to reinforce the logic of your selection process.
- Follow the Pareto principle – 80% of the value comes from 20% of the input. Look for a solution that meets 80% of your needs (including the critical ones) and the remaining 20% can be figured out later.