Systems Selection: Don’t Let the Process Win

Overdoing the Process

Tony Byrne over at Real Story Group offers this cleverly titled blogpost:

Seek immediate attention for a selection lasting more than four quarters

Tony is pointing out what I call “process creep” as opposed to “scope creep”. The latter is a common term in project management: the ever-growing laundry list of great things users or owners would love to have on their new or upgraded tool. Most PMs are watchful about it because adding new items hits everything – budgets, timelines, people commitments and ultimately success of the project. Dragging the team back to reality and focusing on the core effort that was settled at the beginning is critical to making sure the project works as intended.

Process creep follows the same patterns by trying to address every possible situation and looking for the absolutely perfect solution. As Tony indicates, all the spreadsheets and webinars can’t solve fundamental problems of purpose and disagreement. Tool selection like most projects is a mental exercise before it’s anything else – what do we want to do, what must we have vs what’s nice to have, when do we want it done, what does success look like? That’s ultimately the process that matters most, and if it’s months and multiple committees just to answer those questions you’re going about it the wrong way.

Some suggestions for preventing or stopping process creep:

  • Get the right people in the room at the very beginning; you’ll waste a ton of time if you realize a month or two in that a significant stakeholder was left out.
  • But don’t overdo it – the larger the group gets, the less likely you’ll agree on something in a timely manner
  • Identify in the first 5 minutes what you think the purpose of the project is and the ultimate goal of the technology is meant to be. Then take some time to go around the room for comment and input until the entire team can agree on the purposes and goals.
  • Limit your discovery process – it should be straightforward enough to research the players in the space you need and pick three that meet most of your needs. Any more than that and keeping it all straight becomes counterproductive.
  • Don’t be afraid to start over – if the process becomes overwhelming and the spreadsheets are flying by the dozen, stop. Take a breath. Gather the team again and reboot. You may have wasted time to that point, but following the same path only ensures you’ll waste more time.

Let’s talk over your process and find the balance between gathering information and moving forward.