Posted by: Christian Verstraete | April 13, 2010

Beyond replacing your IT systems, redefine your operations


Occasionally, companies take the decision to replace their IT systems. At such moments, the question whether to find a new system to do the same is the right approach. Shouldn’t we take advantage of this change to rethink the way we work. Too many companies forget that.

Over the years, IT has taken a central role as it manages the key information of the enterprise. And it manages them the way the programs have been designed. Often, employees work around the inflexibility of the programs to get business done in the way business should be done at that moment in time. Unfortunately, when management decides to change systems, the experience gained over the years is not fully utilized, and an SOW (same old way)  system is often implemented.

Taking the time to rethink operations and identify how business should be done in the future, is considered as wasted time. Implementation needs to be quick and this results in yet again, an environment that does not address present and future needs fully.

What should companies do in such situation. Well, first they should admit it is important to take the time to review operations and identify what can/needs to be changed. Identifying key information, their lifecycle, their ownership, format, source etc. should be established, at least for the key elements, right from the begin. People often refer to this as “master data”. Having a good view of the data elements and their flows is critical for the next steps.

Secondly, they should identify key business processes. Identifying which data is used in what process, how those processes flow across the organization/supply chain, and who is responsible for what, help connect the data items and identify how information flows across the organization. Using process templates such as SCOR (Supply Chain Operational Reference Model) are excellent tools to structure the templates.

I mentioned the supply chain as, to maximize the benefits of the new system, the processes should not only be looked at within the boundaries of the enterprise but across the whole value chain.

Taking such data/process based approach, not only helps identify systems that can grow with the organization, but also prepare for the gathering of information and the gaining of an increased understanding of the eco-system through analysis of the data.

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