Business Change vs. System Change: The Slippery Slope

(Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…)

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Wouldn’t it be nice if vendor product administration systems could be configured to your exact specifications, screen designs, workflow, automation, and include flick of a switch integration. Wouldn’t it be nice if the system was intuitive enough to know that most of your business uses the same forms, limits, and deductibles, except in a small number of cases. Wouldn’t it be nice if the implementation was as easy as installing music software and you only have to run the setup.exe file and you’re ready to start writing business or administering claims.

That would be nice. But its not realistic. Implementing a new system to support your business is laborious and requires the proper attention by the proper people; otherwise, garbage in – garbage out. Underwriters, Claim Managers, Agent Relations people, don’t want to deal with putting in a new system, they just want the system in and working. But what does “in and working” mean? Many companies often do not recognize the magnitude of what they are undertaking. They go through the process of selecting an off-the-shelf product and believe this is what they really want. “This works for us and we can move forward with this.” Most of the time, that’s true. Unfortunately, most of the time its also true that the business then decides that there are many shortcomings in the new system and wants to reinvent it using five simple words: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”, and IT must respond. This starts the snowball down Customization Mountain and before anyone realizes, the requests for changes are so frequent, and often so unnecessary, the hopes of what will be in production are unrealistic. The pedestal upon which the system has been placed is so high, it cannot be reached.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the user could put on a helmet, and the system could read their thoughts to enter the data and move through the system. Just like Clint Eastwood flying the Russian aircraft in the movie Firefox.

But what are the reasons for some of these changes? Why does the business need so much customization for a system they spent so much time and money selecting?  When asked these questions, often the business response is, “Because that’s what we do now.” Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of implementing a new system if you just want to keep doing what you’re already doing? That’s like buying a new horse to pull your trailer of goods, instead of a pickup truck. You’re not taking advantage of the features, functions, and new technology of the system, if you don’t also look at Business Process Adoption. Changing your business processes is most often much more cost effective than system customizations and will reap longer term benefits for the company. System changes increase maintenance time and costs with upgrades, not to mention being the major source of costs overruns and project delays.

Try to remember that vendors build systems to satisfy everyone; and you can’t satisfy everyone all the time. Go as close to the base product as possible, even putting that into production first, then look at making necessary changes. Your success rate will be much higher and your budget won’t get blown out of the water. Don’t try to rush everything into production on the first go-around. Take it in pieces and concentrate on delivering successfully using as much forward-thinking implementation as possible, such as using SOA in your existing architectures and platforms.

Then management will say: “Wasn’t it nice that the system went in on time and on budget.”

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