August  03,  2020

You need new technology and processes. You know how you want your organization to use them. So you choose a system and start designing the way you want to do business in the future. What’s wrong with that?

You’re wasting time and money.

Organizations are naturally impatient to describe and document their futures. But it’s sometimes hard to convince them to carefully document where they are right now. I mean, everyone knows what you do now. Isn’t it a waste of time?

No. You must carefully document the current state—of your systems, processes, and work.

Think of it this way. Planning to implement a new system is like planning a road trip. Typically, you have a clear start and end point; with that information you can pick the route, identify sites to hit along the way, and estimate the cost of gas, snacks, and hotel stays. But what if you didn’t know your start location? Now you don’t know any of your routes, what supplies you might need, or even how long it will take to get to your destination.

You might be thinking, this is silly. Of course you know where to start your road trip; it’s right where you’re sitting! And you’d be right, except on this particular trip, you’re not the only one on the road. You’re traveling with everyone in your organization; you all have to end up in the same place. Say everyone agrees to meet at the Starbucks parking lot, but no one clarifies which one; now the wheels are falling off, and you haven’t even left yet. You need to get in touch with everyone, figure out where they are, and tell them where to go…you’re spending time, and maybe money, rounding everyone up. And when you’re finally together, everyone might not agree to follow your original plan.

Sounds pointlessly exhausting, right? Well it’s nothing compared to a system implementation without a properly documented current state.

Documenting the current state isn’t just about avoiding pitfalls on the road. There are significant advantages as well.

Knowing the “as-is” enables you to pick or design the system properly, analyze the impacts, and design employee engagement and good training.

So what does it take?

  • Leadership must align on where the organization stands. What are the current assets and liabilities, and what are the obstacles to success? To figure that out, establish a common vocabulary and confirm current workflows. This identifies the current dependencies and interfaces to maintain, and illuminates gaps the new system must fill if you want to reach your goals.
  • Concurrently, identify repetitive processes and cut down on customization where it’s not necessary. Get the right amount of technology to reach your goals, don’t pay for fancy features you don’t need!
  • Speaking choosing technology, make sure all decision-makers understand something: the system is NOT the destination; it is the car. This is important. Technology is a tool that helps you achieve the business outcomes you want. Make sure you pick the right tool for the job.
  • After identifying your start and end locations and selecting your vehicle, you’re ready to plot a course. This includes assessing the gaps between current and future states and conducting an impact analysis. Studying who is impacted and how gives you a blueprint for the employee transition—engagement activities, communications, and training. In other words, you’ll deliver the right solutions for the right people at the right times. (Check out our three key principles of organization change: familiar, controlled, and successful.)

Documenting your current state is a critical investment in the success of your implementation. Give it the time and effort it needs, and your journey to those business outcomes will be a lot more rewarding.