Why expensive new solutions + old process = expensive old processes?

Why expensive new solutions + old process = expensive old processes?

Understand the limitations of the platforms you choose to run your business with.

First a little background,

One of the most significant projects I worked on in my career for "Digital Transformation" was for a Fortune 500 company with 50,000+ employees and one of the top employers in Thailand.

It was just an E-commerce website, we were not building a new kind of rocket or an electric car. The whole team went through this nauseous ride with a pilot (solution provider) that is a very established name in the business of IT Solutions. They sold us, what we thought was a very expensive and therefore the best solution that would take us to new heights but it almost crashed and burned. I might be drawing upon the Boeing disaster here but yes, it was somewhat similar to that.

This software was not only completely lacking for the new generation of internet users, it also became obsolete halfway through our implementation when the solution provider went and acquired another (better) solution and left us in the trenches to fend for our lives. I am not exaggerating here.

The site did go live and we managed to sell products until the company decided to create a whole new team and sub company to sell online. Better late than never.

Here is where it all went wrong.

Inexperience in the project

The solution was the worst choice for an E-commerce platform. We quickly realized how much it lacked behind its competitors. But this is not entirely on them. None of us had any experience building an E-commerce platform so even though they (the provider) convinced us it was the right solution, it became clear very quickly it really could not do much in terms of customization and we really underestimated how much of it we would need given that we were selling both B2C and B2B products with 2 different sales processes on the site.

So, what can you do when you're purchasing solutions for a project thats is completely new to you?

10 years later, the process of solution procurement is pretty much similar in project management but solutions are so much more advanced and much less rigid.

Setup a demo with your real content

Example, for an E-commerce website create a mockup in the CI (Corporate Identity) of your company with real SKUs from the company. It will not only help you to properly evaluate its frontend and some backend features, I can guarantee that when the senior management looks at the site with content thats theirs they will be much more convinced to buy it. This probably is very good advice for account managers or sales teams of tech products too. I am of course assuming that the solution also checks all requirements on your RFP including backend architecture.

Old process + new solution  = expensive old process

Ironically, I learned this equation in our solution providers conference. Our process was based on brick and mortar. Not improved or revised for E-commerce. Everyone wanted an online portal to sell online without setting up a process for it. This taught me a very important lesson for my future projects.

How to navigate around old mindsets in the IT procurement world?

If I have any chance to remind the management on the importance of their business readiness in the early stages of the project, I do it. Even though I would need the backing of senior managers, my boss and/or other influential colleagues, I find them and make a case for setting up a business process for whatever new digital transformation idea the company is going forward for. You might think this is such an obvious thing but given how much I hear IT PMs complaining about this, it is quite a rampant problem in most companies. All this "digital transformation" buzzword mongering results in ideas but really no backbone on business processes to support it. It is a recipe for failure.

It is not always rewarding to trust the OGs.

By going with a solution because of its brand name is not always a safe bet. We crashed and burned and then only rose from the ashes because the project had to go live by hook or by crook and extra budget was poured in it by the parent company. We managed to keep postponing until we could go live. By the end of it even our System Implementer lost a few organs I bet. Yes, they stuck with it too because we were the OGs too. Having our account was extremely important to them too.

So, what can you do to avoid falling prey to great sales pitches but no substance solutions?

Dont trust the brand names. Just like Gucci and LV market itself to middle income consumers who can't afford these products but buy them just to show off their non-existent wealth, IT solutions can be the same. Not all solutions built by big brands can accomplish what they promise. In your list of potential providers going through the RFP process make sure to include the solutions whose core business is the solution you are looking for. If they are doing extremely well in their target market they must have an edge over older bigger names like SAP, Cisco, Adobe et. al.

Hope you got some ideas here and if nothing else if you have faced something similar in your project managing life then maybe you could relate. In any case, it is our biggest failures that teach us our biggest lessons and this project definitely made me a better project manager.

If you like to see my project profile, goto my Professional Portfolio page

Happy Project Managing

Nitika Bhardwaj

Nitika Bhardwaj

I aspire to contribute in my own little way in the development of humanity through the lens of sustainability and conscious living.