Friday, July 21, 2006

An Application of Power

My current role has some interesting twists. There are some decisions around technology that I could make and most everyone would nod their heads and say, “Yes, he knows best.” That’s not because I’m a genius, its just no one has a clue and I appear to. As is every aspect of life relativity matters.

We’re about to purchase a system that will significantly effect our efficiency in a major way. It will be used by a large majority of the most important delivery part of the company. The company had been waffling about making a decision in this area for years. It’s a big investment that will be the start of a big change programme.

No one wanted to be responsible for the decision. I was brought in to sort this out, amongst other things. I could have come in and just arbitrarily made a decision, and likely no one would have stopped me. There was one vendor who had a product that most everyone had seen and was comfortable with. The investment would have been made, and the implementation begun.

However, instead I brought in some of the dreaded consultants, and we’ve spent two months in an arduous and intensive selection process. We did workshops, interviews, multiple detailed demos. We started with a long list of 15 products, quickly weeded it out to a mid list of five, then a short list of two. In the last week we had both vendors in for very detailed workshops where we had a group of super users taking the software out for a long test drive. A large number of people have been involved, there is huge buy in to the process. As a result, any decision will be validated throughout the company.

Yesterday was the final selection meeting. It was not easy. On the one hand the initial product that everyone knew had, by far, the most intuitive user interface. It was a familiar look to other systems in the company. The contender though was technically more sound. It was better architected, more scalable, and had a delivery flexibility that was far better than the other option.

I don’t want to call them factions, but there people who favoured one vs the other. Everyone, in effect, looked to me to arbitrate. I could have said 'A' or 'B' and there would be relief and jubulation in the streets. Because of the process I'd led everyone through, the decision felt mutual, conscensus, even if, in the end, the decision was mine.

So, what do you do? On the one hand you’ve got a product that is more familiar, is more easily usable to the large majority of staff who will interact with it. The change programme of implementing it will be eased. On the other you’ve got one that is slightly less usable, but is architecturally more sound? You know the second will be easy for you personally to manage and operate in the future. The user interface is not bad, and you could pay the vendor to improve it, make it more like what people are used to. The price between the two is not relevant, they are close enough in net terms as for it to not matter.

You can go one way or the other. The choice will impact the company for the next three to five years. What do you do?


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