This post starts a series to walk one through the questions we must answer in finding solutions for business problems. We will focus on IT solutions because so many challenges are best solved through automation. That is where software applications shine. However, there will be situations where your best solution is not found in IT. You will find a path to those other solutions when you answer the questions we explore.
You can spend a lot of money on software consultants and solution providers. They may or may not guide you to the best solution. Therefore, this free list of questions may be the best investment of your time. It would be best to answer these questions, or at least be aware of them, as you research what works best for you.
Before continuing, note that the best solution requires investing time and money. A good consultant or provider can guide you, but they must learn how your business works. This is not a summary or overview but will be in-depth. Think of it as building a house. You do not simply say, “I want a house with X bedrooms and Y baths,” there is far more detail you provide. A good business solution is no less complicated. The details will help you find an IT solution that fits you like a custom-tailored suit.
My Checklist of Questions
Let’s start with those questions we need to ask. We will explore them in more depth in this and upcoming posts.
- What is the problem you need to solve?
- How do you currently solve your business problem?
- Describe the perfect solution to the problem.
- Is the problem likely to change/evolve?
- How will the solution impact you or your business?
- What is your budget?
- How soon do you need the solution?
- Are there industry requirements such as standards or regulations?
- Who will use the solution?
- Is this an improvement of the current solution?
- Do you have resources or staff available to support the solution?
What Is The Problem You Want To Solve?
This question appears evident at first glance. However, it is often skipped over or not provided the thought it deserves. The challenge in answering this question is to solve a problem and not one of the symptoms. Think of a doctor that treats a fever instead of curing a disease. Unfortunately, that is often what we do in business, particularly in software. An excellent way to approach this is to return to your childhood and ask “why” until you reach the root desire. It is incredible how often this provides not only a better solution but also a far simpler implementation.
An Example Problem To Solve
I think an example works best for this aspect. We can start with a customer that wants to be able to copy data from one application to another. The goal is to open application A, do a sort of screen print of data and then be able to paste the data into application B. Awesome, now ask why. They want to paste because they have orders entered into one system and then need to put that data into a fulfillment system. This situation is not uncommon. Multiple systems and data need to flow from one to another.
Rethink Your Process
We have a few jumping-off points. However, we will focus on the back end. What happens with the fulfillment system? Why enter data in that? The answer is that the order is printed out and handed to the warehouse for pick and shipping. The shipping information is printed and sent to someone to enter into the fulfillment application. Then, they repeat the process with application A. Then, an order is marked fulfilled, and data is entered into system A to show it was shipped. We can see where there are duplicate entry points and the opportunity for data entry errors. Fortunately, it is not uncommon for us to see a system’s flaws when we walk through it step-by-step. While some organizations require printed forms and data, that is becoming rare. Instead, the case is often that “we always did it that way,” and the challenge is changing rather than a business need. However, you can find an IT solution with less cost than you think.
Find The Right Perspective
The example also provides an error in perspective. Too often, we focus on a single problem or pain point and fail to step back and analyze how we got there. In the above case, the problem is not getting data from system A to system B. Instead, it is getting data from a customer through shipping, invoicing, and fulfillment. Software projects can struggle due to a change in scope or focus. The original problem is shown to be insufficient once the project starts. That can lead to many challenges we can avoid by starting with a better handle on our final goal. Instead, we find an IT solution before knowing how to solve the problem correctly.
The First Question To Answer
Any successful journey has a starting point and a destination. Every project is the same way. We will improve our chances for success substantially by assessing where we are and where we want to go. Therefore, you must first answer, “What is the problem you want to solve?” There is no need to find an IT solution until you have that answer. While there are consultants that can help you refine your answer or answers, you will be hard-pressed to find the best resources or approach until you have a solid solution to start with. We are available to help you in your journey. However, you can often do yourself a huge favor by asking yourself, “why?” a few more times before you search for someone to solve your problem.
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