Making sure that a system upgrade aligns to a specific business requirement or a set of requirements is an important first step prior to determining the technical aspects of the decision process. There are many occasions in which a company will choose to either upgrade an existing system or implement a new one altogether. Some common reasons include a combination of end-of-life support, the need for additional functionality or integration into other systems and physical constraints. Although the specific reasons for the upgrade are different for each company, in my experience similar guidelines are followed when selecting a new system, starting with the question: “Can a new system do what the old system did but faster, cheaper and offer more functionality?” If the answer is “Yes” you begin a new system selection process! But if the answer to that question is “No” and a system upgrade/installation still precedes, that often leads to many challenges and problems.
During a recent project I was on in the financial services vertical, all the requirements of their new system came from the requirements of the old system with a few minor tweaks. A few of these were business requirements, but the majority were technical. The problem with this approach is that it does not take into account what a new and more advanced system could potentially provide with regard to resolving business challenges. Instead of going through the process of establishing business requirements, such as: “provide linked fields throughout all files and systems to automatically fill in client information,” or “automatically log credit request process into log file,” the focus was solely on answering the technology side of the system selection process. These are just a few examples of requirements that can often be overlooked during the selection process.
When developing new business requirements for this client, we discovered that the system they had could already meet 90% of the new requirements needed. Companies could save a lot of money on system upgrades if they went through a formal requirements gathering and vendor selection process before they moved into the implementation process. A sign of a good implementation is that the core system design withstands, while remaining flexible enough to meet shifting business requirements. A strong design session with detailed requirements around the shifting needs of a business will allow future system selections to be done at longer intervals, saving the business money.
The first step is to sit down with the client and ask a simple question. “What are your business requirements for upgrading X system?” That simple question doesn’t ask for system requirements or specifics. It is a much broader question that should be answered at a high level that aims to answer what future innovations to the company can this system help achieve. Some answers might include: “We need mobile support for our banking applications” or “We want to log in remotely to our systems.” A lot of new and innovative ideas will never be uncovered if business requirements sessions aren’t conducted before the new system selection. Not only can this lead to frequent system upgrades, which costs the business money, but it interferes with employees abilities to bring innovative ideas into the workplace. An innovative mindset is key in helping clients reach their transformational goals, which is what West Monroe brings to the table during new system selections and implementations.