Is your software sabotaging you? Depending on your software requirements approach, it may feel that way.
With the wrong software, you may find yourself overwhelmed with excess costs, trapped by limitations, even forced to reconsider how your business operates.
It seems natural to blame your software—it’s not doing what you need it to. The problem, however, may lie less in your software and more in the way you chose that specific software.
Be sure your software solutions will produce meaningful and valuable results for your business.
All too often, people make the mistake of choosing or designing software solutions based on the processes and systems they currently have in place, or via a list of features from existing solutions in the marketplace.
One of the problems with making software decisions this way is that it does not take into account the nuances of your business, leaves little room for your company to grow or adapt, and may put you in a position where you’ll need to adopt new software again all too quickly.
Ultimately, this approach often leads to software that won’t improve your business in any substantial way, typically with excess overhead and limitations. Making matters worse, all this may actually slow things down or force you to change how you do business.
So, there has to be a better way, right?
Before you do anything else, you have to establish a vision for the area of your company which will be using the software.
Your vision is more important than you may realize.
It will not only guide you in choosing the best software solutions for your company, but it will be your benchmark to measure future success, to gauge whether your software is doing what you need it to, and to know when it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing (before it’s too late), whether because you simply want to shift directions or because your company has outgrown your software.
That last line should help you realize something: the better you understand where you want to go, the further you think ahead, and the more you plan for changes and curveballs, the less you’ll need to modify or completely rebuild your software in the future.
This is why having a vision is so helpful. You can’t plan for everything, but you can deploy software that is ready for where you want to go.
How do you start establishing a vision for your software planning?
Instead of just thinking about your company in its current state, I want you to take a moment and consider the bigger picture.
- What growth do you have in mind for your company?
- Is the way you’re currently running it conducive to that growth?
- What’s working with your current methods?
- What’s holding you back?
Consider which areas could produce the most substantial improvement.
These are the areas you should be looking out for. Don’t focus solely on improving existing processes. Look for opportunities to eliminate unnecessary ones and implement new, better ways of doing things.
Maybe everything in your company is running pretty well, and looking for flaws seems like a fruitless task, but I promise, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your business, especially in terms of software.
Think less “what’s wrong?” and more “what could be better?” I guarantee there’s at least one aspect of your business that is still using the same procedures simply because “that’s how it’s always been done.”
Don’t let “that’s how it’s always been done,” stagnate your business. You can do better!
Think, “Is there any hindrance to my company’s growth?”
This can be anything from current issues to foreseeable obstacles. Consider every possibility.
Maybe you plan on moving to a new location at some point? In that case, typical operations may need to shift to accommodate the change in space.
Perhaps you plan on growing your workforce? You may need to make multiple modifications to support your new employees.
The key is to think beyond just solving current problems, and shift your thinking to consider both how you can improve your company and possible roadblocks in the future.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Now that you’ve shifted your mindset, I’d like you to ask yourself: “What is the main problem I am trying to solve?” or “What opportunity do I want to pursue?” You may even want to ask yourself both, as the two often go hand-in-hand.
Do you currently have a problem where employees are unhappy with the time it takes to accomplish a simple task? Or maybe the same task is suddenly taking up a lot more time than it used to?
Think about the problem your company is facing, your plans for growth, and how it’s affecting both current and future operations.
Sit down, get comfortable, really put some thought into it, and write it down! This isn’t a frivolous activity; it demands thorough thought and effort.
Consider every milestone you’re hoping your business will achieve and every possible hindrance to that achievement—again, think of both current and foreseeable issues.
What does your company’s success look like?
Once you’ve established the main problems you’re trying to solve, you need to determine who understands this the best and can help define it.
Maybe it’s your Operations Manager, or your Sales Manager, or anyone else working directly with the issue at hand.
While you’ll want to keep your whole team involved throughout the process, this should be someone with the company’s best interests in mind, who you can rely on to help you get to the root of the problem without the bias of sticking with the status quo.
Imagine the ideal scenario:
You are able to develop a solution for any current problem without restraints or restrictions.
Forget reality for a moment! Don’t think about what can or can’t be done. Imagine what your perfect solution would be in an ideal world.
We’re not talking “magic” here, we’re talking more about a solution that isn’t encumbered by constraints, a solution that you could see working under the perfect circumstances.
Even if your perfect solution seems impossible, it can help guide the way you go about developing an actual solution.
Now consider, what does success look like once the problem is solved?
What “Business Value” does your ideal solution provide?
This is where you really start to think about what matters to you as a business.
In your ideal solution, how is your business running?
Quantify (specifically or estimated) the potential impact of your solution using real measurements that are important to your business.
There are multiple ways to quantify this:
- Time measurements (like work completed in hours or weeks)
- Percentages (like an increase in your business’ productivity)
- Monetary figures (like an increase in revenue or cost savings)
However you quantify your success, be sure to formulate your entire vision in a way you can measure against.
This will help you make decisions along the way to determine things like what your budget should be, what features are important, and, most critical of all, whether or not you’ve achieved your Vision at the end of the project.
So, no, your software isn’t out to get you. It’s there to help things run smoother and take your business further, but you have to establish your vision first and use that as the basis for your software requirements.
If you’re using the wrong approach for establishing software requirements, you may be the one inadvertently sabotaging your own company.
Read Part II: Gathering Information and Refining Your Vision