The summer edition of the Harvard Business Review has a wide-ranging research article on the effect of IT spending and enterprise software, in particular on U.S. business over the last 50 years. A lot of good reading for a market research person like me, but for IT guys looking at where to put their dollars, a short sidebar sums it up:
"Successful IT-enabled business process improvements ... generally have a number of important characteristics:
- They cover a wide span. The new ways of working apply across a very large swath of a company...
- They produce results immediately. As soon as the new enterprise system goes live, so do the process changes it enables.
- They are precise, rather than general guidelines, suggesting highly scripted instructions for business activities...
- They are consistent -- executed the same way everywhere, every time.
- They make monitoring easy. Activities and events can be observed and tracked in real time ... for testing and feedback.
- They build in enforceability (... making it) impossible to execute the process the old way...
As a research analyst, I have to tell readers outside the U.S. that this might apply only inside the U.S. because of the way the research was conducted. But they look like findings that can be turned into pretty good universal advice to me.
I like the last one especially. My experience is that too many programs allow workarounds, almost encouraging hide-bound business people to revert to past unproductive processes (he said as he wrote this out in long hand on a yellow legal pad...)