If Yesterday Corp.s experience serves to demystify the process of adopting e-commerce and other technologies, it also should serve as a warning. As President Tom Sincharge struggled to sell the board of directors on the immediate need to adopt new technology, he had an even bigger sales job ahead of him: convincing the same directors each and every year that the job will require constant reinvestment.
Rushing into such an endeavor unprepared could put Yesterday Corp.and any businessat risk, says Michael Gemmer, president of Akron-based The Gemmer Group Inc., by making it unable to process orders, properly manage inventory or, worse yet, putting sensitive information into the wrong hands, such as hackers. Just remember, e-commerce is a journey, not a destination, and the overall effort is a constantly evolving process.
Thats why every consultant Sincharge approached about the Yesterday Corp. project reiterated the same pointthe need for any business wishing to take the leap into the information age through a thorough process of strategic planning.
The technology is so strong that with all projects, there is a danger of the technology driving the business, rather than the business driving the technology.
DeCarlo, Paternite & Associates Inc., of Independence, employs a seven-phase method on every project the firm undertakes. Each phase, explains Vice President Joseph LaMantia, ensures checks and balances for DPAI and its clients and allows a joint decision on how to proceed with every follow-on project.
Each phase ends with a client review and an estimate from DPAI of the time and cost of the next phase. Clients must then agree to move on to the next phase. Explains LaMantia: The methodology forces you to consider and think about other alternatives to solving the same issues, and to at least discuss that with the clients so that were able to define their true business reasons for doing something. Once we agree on that reason, that becomes the driver for us to design a solution.
DPAIs seven phases are:
- Project definition. A series of meetings between consultant and client, including people from every department affected by integration of new systems, software or hardware. The goal is to understand the business environment of the company and its objectives.
- Joint requirements planning. Client is educated about possible solutions and a budget is established.
- Joint application design. Rough-cut prototype is developed to determine if it meets the clients needs.
- Software construction and testing. Final version is developed and tested; employee training plan is laid out.
- Implementation. Solution is fully implemented into the business; user training occurs; data is converted to the new system.
- Support. New system is monitored to ensure it meets client needs and works smoothly.
- Continuous improvement. System is constantly evaluated to determine future improvements and additions that meet the companys changing business needs.
- Make a new line item in the annual budget. Once you commit to technology, you are in a constant battle against obsolescence and you'll never be finished replacing hardware and updating software.
- Create a culture of measurement, evaluation and continuous improvement of information systems.
- Build in training costs. Nothing hurts productivity and morale more than a new system that people don't know how to use.
- Absorb an improvement fully and then move on to the next step as soon as you can afford it.