Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fooled again (I don't like it)

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here

While working with a customer this week, in a lunch break, the conversation moved to how software is often unlike other products we are generally used to. The user I was talking to, who I will not name, described software a bit like a "Washing Machine that you get home, then you have to pay another £5K to make it spin your clothes dry". After I had stopped laughing, I had to broadly agree with them. That indeed can feel just like the experience!

The key to this of course, is that to us, a washing machine is a well understood concept and product. Software, for housing, finance, repairs, assets or EDM etc, is a less well known and understood animal, unless you have experience of purchasing and successfully implementing in the past. Certainly, it's a rarity for your average housing professional to be involved in such a project, even more unlikely to do two or more within a career. In PRINCE2 terms, it's just not 'business as usual'.

I have gathered together here, a list of 15 things that you can do to really foul up your projects. I would be surprised if you have not encountered at least a few of these. If you recognise 5 or more, you are probably in trouble! Check out 'How Not To Implement System & Applications' here.

Software, particularly Housing Management Systems can amount to between £500k+ and over a million pounds of expenditure, one of the biggest areas of cost. If implemented badly, many times that in efficiency savings will not be realised. The way I always have considered it, that's an awful lot of new Kitchens, Bathrooms, Rewires, Neighbourhood improvements, that will have funding denied.

While few organisations are ever keen to admit they may have made mistakes and purchased the wrong software solutions, or not implemented them well, some key elements of the process can be firmed up to ensure you don't end up in the same situation. Like 'knowing your enemy', 'knowing your problem' is a key one. Setting appropriate expectations and appropriate communication is another. I have experienced organisations that have set a deadline, let it slip, then trained or gone live just to let them tick the box, to say it was hit. If a strong project leader or supplier is not prepared to outline the risk and hit the brakes, almost certainly, time and money will be wasted and the project will not be as successful as it could be.

Often in demonstrations, the wrong questions are asked. In a very British way, often we don't dig deep enough. Software suppliers will demonstrate whatever you ask them to, in order to get your business (within reason). Give them scenarios to follow, with all your painful areas included. Score them on it. That's the way you will understand how those solutions will solve your issues. Do ask if the software will dry your clothes at 800rpm, don't waste too much time worrying about the colour of the software or quality of the icons. Has it got everything on your bucket list, did you see it, did the supplier describe it? More important still, do you think you trust this supplier, could you work together?

The biggest elephant in the room is integration. Grill your supplier options on this one and importantly, ask to see it (or visit a live site it's in place), just like in your instance. This can be the costliest element not to have, or cost a fortune in expensive IT staff to shore up.

I feel so strongly about the amount of money wasted in poor and badly specified software, sloppy late and partially delivered projects, I will be hosting a couple of training courses in July to help housing organisations in this area. as an ex-poacher turned gamekeeper, with over 17 years experience with helping people get the best from housing systems, I can offer unique insight in this area.

Check out the dates on Rod Laird's site, and use this link to book on the Manchester (20th November 2014) course.   Probably the most insightful and useful course you will attend this year, in order to make your systems make a difference, for your customers and neighbourhoods.
You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Fooled again (I Don't like it..).

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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