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Mastering Technology Selection for Competitive Advantage
By Rob Meilen, VP & CIO, Hunter Douglas
In today’s business world, IT organizations are called on to deliver more business benefit, quicker than ever before. This requires more speed in evaluating, selecting, procuring and implementing technologies. And, most important, faster time-to-value or faster time-to-fail (in many organizations, innovation happens through fast cycles of attempt-fail-learn, attempt-fail-learn, attempt-succeed-learn.)
Our business partners are known to say, “I can research an app and install it in less than 5 minutes. Why does it take IT so long to do their version of this?! I’m better off going this alone.” We’d argue that organizations are better off going on this journey together – business leaders, IT and Procurement in a close partnership.
IT is striving to deliver more quickly, with higher business value, while maintaining their historical responsibility for security, inter-operability, scalability, and architectural integrity. Scoring this hat trick depends on more savvy work at the beginning of a technology project.
Often, each group participating in the evaluation process cares about a specific facet of the process that may not align well with other facets. For example, IT often tends to focus on topics such as compatibility of a product within their existing architectural model and its scalability. Procurement tends to care about pricing, discounts and vendor viability. And business leaders /end-users focus primarily on functionality and time to value. These different focus areas create a fragmented approach to a potential technology solution. It becomes the proverbial “car designed by a committee” that no one wants to own or drive.
Making technology selection and implementation more successful requires a more scientific, real-time, multi-sourced process. Progressive CIOs are evolving the fragmented IT selection process towards a prescriptive and user-friendly “Technology Selection Management” service. These services enable business stakeholders to evaluate, select and procure technology with the relevant transparency and governance built into the back-end of the service. The end result is a more collaborative, consensus-driven process; which caters to business urgency without compromising on the process rigor, that IT, Finance and Procurement need.
Our company is making this transition in how we select technology. We’re using a software platform called SelectHub to drive the technology selection process. This helps IT stay in step with business stakeholders throughout the evaluation and procurement process.
Business leaders can come to IT any time and have a project created within SelectHub, or they can create the project themselves in self-service. Stakeholders add their requirements and associated priorities into the tool, and then optionally review vendor leaderboards to understand which products and vendors meet the core requirements. Other clients of SelectHub contribute reviews, requirements templates, and RFP materials into a community repository that benefits users across companies.
From this point, it’s easy to initiate vendor inquires, request demos or a trial version and/or conduct a full-blown RFP. IT stays in the loop at all times and is able to guide the process. There are both private and public forums to communicate with fellow stakeholders internally and with vendors. This has simplified our entire process. At Hunter Douglas, we have been able to reduce the typical evaluation period by almost half.
This transition is allowing our IT group to evolve from a role focused on compliance and controls to a partner role that is actively involved in selecting the products and vendors that deliver maximum value to the business. The platform helps IT communicate with end-users in their business language rather than speaking in IT and process-specific buzzwords.
We’ve accomplished this while still providing the right level of control and compliance. There is an automated audit trail of the entire process all the way from initiation to proposal and contract to the actual completion of a project.
We have found this process and toolset leads to better requirements understanding, better buy-in from all stakeholders, and better selection of technology. Transforming these early steps in projects ultimately improves the odds that we deliver real business value from our technology investments. That’s the real business of IT