Business Process Consulting – Managing Expectations and Defining Goals

Perception vs. RealityManaging expectations and defining the goals of a Business Process Review with the intention of implementing a new system implementation is easy if you can separate perception from reality.  Although Management and Staff must each give their own impressions and expectations of the current system as a starting point, this must be translated to tangible deliverables and goals.

Many times someone will vent, “The system we use is absolutely terrible”, (perception), when on closer questioning, (reality) “I cannot get one type of report”, is the specific issue that caused the blanket statement.  It is easy for people to make gross generalizations.  It requires digging and careful questioning to get to the root cause of the generalization and determine the specific issues – good or bad.

The mission is to line up impressions and issues in the current system against expectations and actual deliverables in the new system.

The easiest way to manage the implied expectations and define the Goals of the new system is to define the outputs, for example in these systems, the goals are fairly clear:

  • Phone System – Can I answer and make telephone call?
  • Accounting System – Can I produce a full set of Financial Statements
  • Inventory Control – Do I have real-time stock visibility?
  • Point of Sale – Do all items scan with minimal key code entry for bar code errors?

An underlying requirement is that the Project must be fully funded.  Running out of money during an implementation or going over budget is a sure fire way to not meet Management’s expectations (on-time, on-budget implementation) and goals (a working system that meets the specification.)  During the Operational Analysis, the issues raised need to be prioritized and evaluated.  In some cases, the cost of a “perfect system” may be too high and certain solutions may be excluded from the new system.

The expectation and goal of any new system is that Management and Staff will be able to obtain the desired reporting from the data entered.  In short, if the new system has a space for all of the different types of inputs (i.e. Order Entry, Bills, Customer Service Records, Cash Receipts, etc.) and can generate all of the desired outputs and reporting, (i.e. Invoices, Financial Statements, Sales Reports, Checks, etc.) then usually both the expectations and goals will have been met.

By meeting with each Department and making sure that their current and desired reporting requirements are met in the new system, you will have met their expectations (hope) and goals (actual deliverable.)

The failure of many system implementations is the extreme disconnect between what Management and Staff perceived the New System could do vs. what the Vendor actually disclosed that it would do.

In a real world example, I was brought in as a System Implementation Consultant.  Contracts had been signed and significant payments were made to the Software Vendor prior to my arrival.  In reviewing Management’s expectations and specifications, I determined that the new software could not meet three of the critical requirements that the Vendor had given the perception of being able to do in the proposal.  In more direct terms:  The Vendor flat out lied about the capabilities of the Software.

This was not fully acknowledged by the Vendor until the “checks had been cashed” and the only recourse for the client was to move forward or commences legal action.  Not only did expectations have to be reset to a lower bar, but to work-around the issues, required tens of thousands of dollars of custom programming. (This caused an additional problem in that any future upgrades to the main system would require significant additional expense to upgrade the custom programming. The client could never install any new release without paying thousands in fees.)

Needless to say, this project was doomed from the start and only a marginal improvement over the existing previously, failed system implementation.

Make sure that the perceived capabilities of any new system line up with the realities of its’ actual capabilities.

If you properly align the expectation with the goal and reality with perception, the System Implementation Project will succeed.

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