Many Community IT clients under-leverage information systems already owned by the organization. There are a variety of reasons for this, but foremost among them is that information systems are frequently chosen to meet a particular set of prioritized business requirements, which become the focus of the initial implementation. As time passes, one or more of several conditions can emerge.
- Business requirements of secondary priority not met during the initial implementation remain unaddressed, even if the information system has the capabilities to meet those requirements
- Business requirements change as the organization itself changes over time, but are never formally considered relative to information systems owned
- The information system vendor releases new features or feature improvements that could provide additional value to the organization.
If these conditions remain unaddressed for a prolonged period of time, the organization may find that information systems are increasingly less effective in supporting business needs.
To remedy this problem, I recommend that organizations conduct a review at least once per year to determine if business requirements or the information systems have changed. To demonstrate the benefit of taking this measure, I’ll provide two brief anecdotes from recent client engagements.
- In a review of an accounting system, an employee learned that a frequently repeated task, taking nearly two hours per repetition, could actually be completed in less than a minute with just a few clicks. The feature supporting this efficiency had been available in the system for multiple full version releases, but because the organization had not conducted regular reviews, the feature went unnoticed. The employee had been performing the task in the inefficient manner for two years. This employee is no Luddite—she is an able and willing user of technology. She simply didn’t know that the feature was available to address her need.
- Frustrated with their learning management system, a client hired us to perform a selection process for a replacement system. During the selection process, we learned that information system already in use by the organization possessed all of the features needed. Why wasn’t the client aware of these features? As it turns out, the vendor released new features “turned off,” allowing top-level systems administrators to introduce new features to the business on a schedule that made most sense to the organization. Unfortunately, this part of the administrative interface was not known by the acting in-house administrator. By the time we conducted our assessment, there was so much emotional baggage associated with the incumbent system that it could not be used as a solution candidate despite meeting all the requirements.
Both of these issues would likely have been addressed within the context of the recommended annual review.
Organizations often do not have the internal bandwidth or neutral perspective necessary to lead such reviews, and turn to Community IT to lead these efforts—which may be conducted as stand-alone projects or rolled into a Part-Time CIO relationship.