Session Description: Based on work with thousands of enterprises, Gingras shares the common mistakes that cause technology projects to go off the rails before they even start. He reviews the 10 most critical mistakes that enterprises make during the digital workplace technology selection process and introduces ways to navigate around them.
[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2014 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]
- Perspective & Disclaimers: Real Story Group describes itself as the consumer reports of the digital workplace space and digital marketing space. They analyze the weaknesses and strengths of the tools and their vendors. They also do some consulting on technology audits; technology strategy & roadmaps; and product and vendor selection (i.e., tech matchmaking). They consider themselves to be a buyer’s advocate for enterprises looking to invest in content technologies (e.g., web content and experience management, digital and media asset management, enterprise collaboration and social software, SharePoint, etc.).
- Neglecting the Business Case: Now that there are some cheap/free technology options, it is easy to overlook the business case. After all who wants to go through the hoops of identifying and documenting the business case? Wrong! It’s important to consider more than just the financial implications of new technology. The companies that go through the discipline of creating a business case find that they are more honest about goals and requirements, and it improves their communications internally about the project.
- Prioritizing systems over screens: IT tends to focus on the “IT stack” (e.g., access channels, common core of standards and frameworks such as permissions and security, systems of records, technology platforms, infrastructure services). This approach is good for the enterprise, but Gingras says you should take a more employee-centered view. Employees want efficiency, effectiveness, ease of use. They want applications that help them work better. Think about giving them a social Q&A capability rather than thinking about a system (e.g., document management system). Focus on what they want to get done. This means you have to put a priority on the user experience (e.g., user journeys and top tasks, workplace “contextually inquiry,” etc.). This may mean poaching UX/UI talent from other businesses/industries.
- Thinking project, not product: Think beyond the implementation project. Think about your digital workplace initiative as a product that needs to managed, they need care and feeding, they need continuous improvement. Focus on product managers, not just project managers. Product managers work with your internal communities to improve the product and mine those communities for new ideas and use cases.
- Falling into the requirement checklist trap: The RFP isn’t the problem. The type of RFPs are the problem. Don’t start by identifying all your technical requirements. Vendors will just respond by claiming that they can do every little thing you want. Do start with a handful of high-level technical requirements. Then, focus on typical scenarios and processes for which you need a tech solution. Be careful to be sufficiently DEScription without being excessively PREscriptive. This allows the vendor to engage with your issues/dreams rather than disembodied requirements. These scenarios can be used to shortlist the right vendors and create a bake-off among vendors.
- Shortlisting the wrong vendors: If you shortlist the wrong vendors, you end up doing an apples-to-oranges comparisons. It can be confusing to sort out vendors because many of them overlap. Yet not all of them are right for your needs. Yes, they all may be able to solve your problem BUT they will likely use very different approaches. Do your homework so you understand the difference in their approaches. How do you get to the right shortlist? Start with your use case scenarios. Then compare those to the “canonical use cases” that each vendor is best at. (When they move outside their sweet spot, they end up customizing massively to get their square peg into your round hole.”) You want to match your key use case to their greatest area of strength. In other words: find the products that were built with your use case in mind.
- Only viewing canned demos: Most canned demos are a waste of time. They always look good, but they have very little to do with your use case/problem. Demand that the vendor provides a demo that matches your scenario. In addition, insist that they spend the vast majority of their time on these scenarios and just a few minutes (10?) on their company. Be aware that vendors want to focus on the Sexy: social, mobile, cloud, sentiment analysis, etc. Instead force them to focus on the Not Sexy: workflow, version control, audit trails, content models, taxonomies, metadata, etc.
- Underestimating the full implementation picture: Most companies overbuy and over-estimate. Don’t overbuy on products. If you can’t implement or adopt them sufficiently, it’s a waste of time and money. Equally, don’t over-estimate your capability to implement and use a technology. Often you need a third-party integrator, implementor or consultant to help you actually standup and adopt the new tool. You may need a blend of in-house team, professional services and third-party advisors.
- Improperly test-driving the solution: Conduct a realistic bake-off or proof-of-concept to build out something that closely addresses your most important scenarios. This will reveal what it is really like to accomplish simple things (e.g., configure users, create templates, modify workflows, etc.) and it reveals the harder things you will face. Use “your kitchen, your ingredients and your cooks.” This means your premises, your users, your scenario.
- Ignoring the intangibles: Don’t purchase without first assessing vendor professional services, channel partner services, support & community, strategy & roadmap; and the viability & stability of this product and this vendor. You need a scenario fit, a technology fit, a vendor fit and a value fit.
- Waiting too long to negotiate: List pricing is always negotiable in larger deals. They have seen up to 100% price reductions in order to win/keep a customer. So don’t accept rack rates. (Obviously smaller deals have less room to negotiate.) Most organizations do their price negotiations at the selection/launch phase, which is after you have made a substantial investment of time and effort. This is too late. At this point, you don’t have much negotiating room. It’s better to negotiate at the time you are getting your true scenario onsite demos — always pushing the price down as the vendor learns more about you and how well the product fits out of the box.