Interactions with potential clients often begin with them saying they need me to implement the x,y,z software solution for their business. They are surprised when I don’t immediately say “yes of course” but begin to ask questions to try to understand how and why they arrived at this specific decision. Yes they are the client and it is their budget, but my business goal is to help each client find the practical and appropriate technology solution for their specific needs. Their surprise increases when they hear my response of “no” after learning that they arrived on their decision simply because their direct competitor or a business they think is highly successful uses it.
My 3 questions
Over the years I have learned there are three key questions that need answers for a project to have a great chance of succeeding.
- What specific problem do I want to solve?
- Why do I need to make this change?
- How do I plan on making this change happen successfully?
What specific problem do I want to solve?
There should be one correct answer for your business. The answer for you is a different one than mine. I don’t want to create the impression that a software solution should only solve one problem, but if you are looking to solve everything and the kitchen sink, it’s unlikely that the project will have a positive outcome. You should approach this evaluation by trying to solve one key issue at a time. You may need to go through the process a few times and then analyze to see if there is a solution that works for multiple problems.
Why do I need to make this change?
This is where you can look to your competitors. Perhaps you need to enable a certain feature to remain competitive and unique. Perhaps your current solution is too costly or you’ve outgrown the current level of service. This is where I also offer a strong warning to beware fancy features. While leaving room for growth in your technology is a smart practice, too often I’ve seen this turn into features that are never used for a variety of reasons.
How do I plan on making this change happen successfully?
I don’t mean only by hiring a technology consultant! Change isn’t easy and it can be scary. I get that you might be nervous because you don’t understand a specific technology. I don’t understand all the specifics of your business! What is important is that you need to take some steps to help this change succeed. That means you need to actually nurture it. How do you do that? Work with the people you hire to make decisions along the way (please don’t micromanage). Set aside time for training. I suggest some basics before implementation and definitely time set aside after to make sure you know how to do what you need to do (and when to call an expert). It is also a good idea to budget more time than you think you need to make this change happen.