If you’re reading this, I suspect you’re interested in some level of moving your business forward with sustainable improvements in this time of emerging from some very challenging years.  Not everyone has that ability right now, and I join you in feeling empathetic to those that are still struggling with getting their businesses back to a more familiar state.

This post’s theme is something that applies to systems and information goals (but it also applies to many things in our lives):  biting off more than your organization can chew can easily lead to failure of reaching your objectives. Or, said more positively: it’s best to focus on what, realistically, can be accomplished.

The methodology we’ve developed over many years emphasizes the need to evaluate, before executing.  Similar themes: Measuring before cutting. Sufficient lessons before flying solo. You get it.

If you’re on your business’ leadership team (or more specifically a CFO), you’re juggling many responsibilities – systems, treasury, HR, finance, reporting, getting people “back to the office” (perhaps) and compliance – among others.  On the systems front, you and your peers have likely recognized during the Covid era that your systems need some attention (or replacement?) in consideration of the new ways you’re doing business, and to adapt to things like supply chain interruptions, contract manufacturing vs. making in-house, skilled personnel shortages, and the like.  “Fixing” these systems to accommodate change is never easy – it’s always disruptive, and most of the time not particularly successful.  And, these changes very much impact the people involved – a factor often ignored even more than considering the “reality” of what can be accomplished. But, for now, let’s focus on the latter point…

Business is, and has been, changing and reacting to new realities. Perhaps you are now shifting some part of your business from off-shore to on-shore or increasing (or decreasing) the extent to which you manufacture, or outsourcing more of your workforce, or adding new subcontract factories and suppliers to your supply channel. Or maybe you’re just recognizing the need to have much better information so you can make decisions with less “anecdotal” insights.

Many in your shoes assume that if their current information processing environment is not supporting these changes effectively, it’s time to wholesale replace the core software to solve that problem.  In the spirit of evaluation before execution: think strategically before you just start searching for software.

First, it may not be necessary to do something as dramatic as replacing your core software. Despite the incredible (and admirable) job that some software companies are doing to literally pop up with messages sharing the “magic that happens when you run your business on XYZ software” on every podcast, radio ad, web search and billboard these days – it’s not really about the software, much of the time. Instead, we encourage you to evaluate what really is needed, in the near and intermediate term – relative to all other things going on in your business and responsibility sphere – before you get diverted into a very time-consuming, comprehensive, risky software replacement project. Key word: relative. Another key word: risk.

If you focus on determining what is most important to “fix”, and why it should be fixed, relative to other priorities at hand today – it would not be surprising that you determine that one option may be to just enhance what you already have – even re-implementing some of it – or adding on a specific reporting tool or reconfiguring some module or integrating your existing tool with some other function-specific tool that can function together without a wholesale change of core software.  If the effort to more clearly define the problem and to assess realistic alternatives to solving your improvement goals does not lead you to reworking what you have, then, the bigger point is this: be realistic.

Is a replacement of core software, even if that is truly the best functional and improvement-focused alternative, something you can accomplish within the constraints of your overall risk profile? That’s where serious evaluation steps in.

Evaluation yields a reality check. We do this for every client as part of our methodology – but you can do your own version of it, particularly if you’re of a strategic mind and have some experience with these sorts of sweeping system transformation projects.  Here you go: Evaluation should be performed to assess the impact of the various alternatives you are facing, realistically, for systems transformation (alternatives include: full replacement, some replacement, limited replacement/reconfigure current, augmentation/integration with other systems, etc.). More specifically, the “impact” is measured against these elements: your business environment, your personnel at all levels, your customers, your vendors, your existing processes, your reporting and compliance needs, your financial resources and others. Evaluating with a realistic view of the impact on these elements will guide you to the right choice. Such a choice, based on realistic assumptions of what should be accomplished, why, and the breadth of that impact form the change – will yield a much higher likelihood of successful outcome. Then, the usual planning and readiness activities should kick in – including readying your staff, your project team, your management and other for the pending “project”.

This evaluation strategy and related effort is an important part of the value we deliver to our clients, but given what’s happening in so many businesses right now, I felt compelled to just remind our readers of the value to be realistic in what can and should be accomplished in light of all other very important things that are impacting your team and your business right now.

For many years my posts and presentations have advocated prudent, methodologically-sound approaches to undertaking system transformation projects – from simple to mammoth – so we totally understand a desire to make huge changes – but, right now may not be the right time for many businesses to perform wholesale replacement undertakings.  A reality-checking evaluation of your readiness is always a good step. I’m happy to talk about your situation if you are interested – but hopefully this reading set a tone for taking a breath and keeping realistic goals in the forefront, despite the eagerness we all feel about making even bigger changes.  We’re here if you want to talk. Email us at [email protected], or check out our web page on Digital Transformation (you’ll see “Evaluation” pretty prominently illustrated in our Phase 1 narrative: www.SLBusinessInformatics.com). Wishing you success with your endeavors in 2022!

Bob Green, CPA.CITP, CGMA – Lead Partner – SL Business Informatics – SingerLewak, LLP