Magic carpet ride: Do you know that song? There is also a more recent remix from Fat Boy Slim, but originally it was performed by Steppenwolf in the late sixties. Back then, hardly anybody could imagine what will be possible with the help of computers in the future. But while technology has changed totally, I am pretty sure, that mankind and people have not altered so much. So like the musicians back then were dreaming of entering a new level and a new reality in an easy and comfortable way, many companies today are expecting exactly this from their new IT system. But while it adds to the fascination of an artist of being somehow unspecific and giving room for different interpretation, it would however be a real nightmare in any kind of implementation project when everybody has his own perception of what this all is about…
But in reality, exactly this has been the case in many projects. Being for many years in the business, I always wonder why this still happens so often and my theory is, that the IT world is perceiving itself as oh so rational while in fact there are still people with emotions and all their strengths and intuitions which are doing the business.
So what does this mean if you really want to take your customer on a magic carpet ride towards a successful project?
The most important thing is (in total contrast to any artist by the way!) to become as concrete as possible. And as old Adam and Eve are highly visually orientated, it is the best to give them something to see as early on as possible. Just ask anybody experienced in the market research business for interviewing people about their favorite features on any kind of product: It will always end up in some sort of all-in-one device suitable for every purpose which is a) hard or even impossible to produce and b) will not met the expectations of the customer anyhow. Sounds familiar to project work? Yes, indeed, and that is why I am a strong believer in an iterative approach where you collect the feedback and then go back and rework it rather than trying to build up everything from scratch in some sort of greenfield approach.
Interestingly enough, this approach is to some degree depending on culture as well. In Japan for instance, they are much more used to an incremental step by step approach rather than doing it all at once. Years ago I was involved in a Japanese project, where the whole thing was only starting to move forward when we stopped discussing requirements in the usual way only with the help of a piece of paper and began to work with dummies and prototypes instead. Only then the involved Key-Users were able and willing to contribute to the project and giving us the feedback and information we needed!
SAP with the Best Practices concept is successfully following that idea for years now. And they now are picking up even more speed with the Business All-in-One (BaiO) Concept and the Rapid Deployment Solutions which are carrying that approach one step further. For itelligence, which was in fact one of the inventors of preconfigured solutions, this is of course a strong reinforcement of our company believes. For instance we are using prototype sessions in our implementation projects. There the customer can evaluate his system under construction in order to get a qualified feedback about the completion level. And while everybody is appreciating preconfigured systems as a project accelerator, I strongly believe that the main value is not saving time and effort by reuse but in fact the possibility to show the customer something concrete pretty early in a project. So even in case you will end up in not using most of the provided preconfiguration, it will be valuable in finding out the right way to go. The principle of “what you see is what you get” makes it so much easier to find out what you like and what you don´t like. And especially in the IT business, it could and should be used much more in future.
Give the customers orientation, especially if they are potentially not that experienced with computer business. For me, the main task of a good consultant is to reduce the (perceived) complexity for the customer, making clear what is possible and also what is expected from each and everybody. In other words: To be a guide on the trip to a successful implementation and on that trip, any tool or accelerator is highly welcome. By the way, I am not sure, whether the guys from Steppenwolf were using some accelerators on their trip as well. If so, I am not sure if all of them were legal, but I promise, the ones I proposed are fully in line with the law!