At the beginning of this year, I set a goal to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon race. When I set the goal, I was focusing only on passing through the finish line after my 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run. I wasn’t thinking about the training, the nutrition and the incremental fitness improvements which would be required for me to not only complete my race, but do it injury free.
Organizations often set goals like I do. They drive forward with laser like focus on the outcome of a major implementation with little thought regarding the building blocks necessary to support the goal. They often don’t plan for the resources which will be required to maintain, modify, enhance and ultimately grow their systems. They often begin planning for new projects to fully leverage their investment once they get a taste of the automation and the efficiencies ECM and BPM systems provide.
Supporting long-term growth of any enterprise system requires care and attention to the underlying foundation it is built upon. The foundation extends beyond the servers and technology it is built upon; it includes the people, policies and procedures required to keep it healthy. When the foundation is healthy and end-user adoption is maximized, growing the system is easy. However, the base must be present and healthy.
We consult our clients to think of building a pyramid. The foundation of the pyramid is an organization’s ability to Maintain their system. Once they are able to maintain their system, they next must develop the ability to Modify their system in response to changing business needs. Next, they must be able to Enhance the system to improve existing processes for users. When these three foundational layers are in place, organizations can Grow an enterprise system with confidence.
Maintain – Build Stability
Both proactive and reactive tasks are required to “Maintain” a system. These are typically performed by the System Administrator.
Maintaining a system is performing preventative maintenance to keep a system running smoothly and to ensure recoverability in the event of a failure. Examples may include purging extraneous, aged data or ensuring database back-ups are running successfully. It also includes responding to “break-fix” needs when a process or software problem requires immediate assistance.
Planning for, implementing and testing version upgrades are also a key component of maintaining a healthy platform which to build upon.
Modify – Respond to Changes
Quick hitting changes to an existing configuration are often required to adapt a current configuration to a new need. Modifications are typically performed by the System Administrator.
Different from simply making sure everything is running smooth with the system, organizations will likely need to modify their existing system to respond to changing business conditions. Examples may include adding a new employee to an existing work process, updating a document retention schedule or updating an OCR extraction template to respond to a changed form layout. These are all actions which occur not in response to something “breaking” but in response to a legitimate business change – regardless of whether or not it was planned.
The key difference between Modify and Enhance is you are not changing the process; you are simply changing parameters in which the process functions.
Enhance – Improve the Existing
Small, incremental changes to make a process or user function more intuitive, efficient or accurate. Enhancements are typically performed by a System Administrator with or without involvement from SMEs, Business Analysts and stakeholders.
Healthy systems are incrementally enhanced to leverage new functionality or to respond to user feedback. Enhancements include deploying new modules to provide additional ways to perform the same business process. Fine tuning the indexing process to use existing data to fill values would also be an enhancement.
The difference between Enhance and Grow is you are not adding a new process; you are simply building on an existing process.
Grow – Solve New Problems
Adding completely new business processes or departments onto the platform. Growing an enterprise system is typically performed by a System Administrator and/or System Developer with involvement from SMEs, Business Analysts and stakeholders.
Growing a system which is properly maintained, regularly modified in response to business changes and enhanced to improve user productivity builds confidence and trust in the users of the system and ultimately contribute to high-levels of end-user adoption of the technology. Gaining executive buy-in to expand and grow a system which has been known to be stable, has high user satisfaction and has demonstrable improvements to process efficiency is considerably easier than getting buy-in for a system plagued with instability and low user satisfaction.
Acknowledging the importance of working from the ground up is a key first step. Have honest discussions with key stakeholders and support groups on the importance of ensuring a stable environment which can support a changing, improving and growing system. Begin to identify key staff that’ll be responsible at each level of the pyramid. Develop Policies & Procedures for managing the how staff is engaged to execute tasks at each level. Establish a steering committee to plan growth and prioritize activities relating your system.
I’ll continue to expand on this topic in future blog posts, delving more deeply into each layer. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me about embracing this approach within your own organization.
I’ve completed a handful of shorter triathlons and a few duathlons (run-bike-run) and my training is progressing well. This has allowed me to maintain a base level of fitness as I’ve modified my training to accommodate the longer distances. I’ve enhanced my training by incorporating cross-training and improving my overall nutrition. I have complete confidence that as long as I maintain the foundation I’ve spent the last couple of season building, I’ll have a successful race. And, I’ll grow as a triathlete.
How about you and your goals? How are you building a foundation to support your goals?