The System That Nearly Was

This is the sad tale of the system that nearly was.  It is an unspoken truth seen time and time again to varying degrees due to the same fundamental flaws from the very start of any People Systems journey.  The top three being lack of understanding overall, incorrect system selection and loss of momentum.  All of which result in implementations not quite hitting the mark and overall expectations not being met which ultimately impact on the user experience.

I relate this to getting your first electric bike.  It’s the only way to bike.  Everyone is getting one and you are excited to get one too. Although you know very little about electric bikes you rode bikes years ago. It’s not that different…. a bike’s a bike. You jump online and look at pictures and pick the one you like. Its looks so cool, is exactly what you want and your favourite colour. You head off to the bike shop, see the bike front and centre all shiny and calling your name.  And it is so much cheaper than all the others.  You buy it then and there; no questions asked and organise for it to be delivered.

The next day it arrives, and you are shocked to see it’s in multiple boxes.  How is this possible? What.. do they expect me to put it together? I’m not a bike assembler person and I have no idea what I’m doing. You call the bike shop and say I think there’s been a mistake, it’s arrived in boxes to be put together.  The bike shop person explains yes it was in the small print the display one wasn’t what you were purchasing, that is the top-of-the-line prebuilt option.  Once you hear the price for the top-of-the-line assembled bike you decide it’s all good, you’ll stick with what you’ve got, and you know someone who can help you put it together.  They are no expert, but they have a bike, albeit not an electric bike but you both muddle your way through.  As your building it things are not fitting together correctly but its good enough, you also have bits leftover and don’t know where they go but hey it looks like the picture.  You also realise its missing parts compared to the one you saw in the shop, like where’s the light and basket to carry all your things and, hang on, where’s the charger thingy.  You phone the bike shop again and they point out yes, they are all addons and an additional cost.  That’s ridiculous you think, why would an electric bike not come with a charger. You decide that’s ok; I’ll wait to get the charger and I just won’t use the bike if I have to carry anything. Its fine.

So off you head on your first ride.  The bike is rather heavy, and it’s not peddling smoothly and a bit clunky and it’s the wrong height.  Your knees keep hitting the handlebars and you have to keep adjusting the peddles.  But hey you’ve got a bike and you’re riding!  You come to your first big hill and its tough going without the bike doing the work for you. So you decide you’ll just find ways to avoid hills. Next you hit a muddy patch with the tyres flicking mud up all over you. It’s still ok, you decide then and there you’ll just ride it where it’s nice and flat and when it hasn’t been raining. Next you get a puncture and have no idea how to fix it so you spend the next two hours pushing the bike all the way home.

After two days of pretending everything is great with the bike, you decide you need the basket and charger, and you should ask about how to repair it too. You phone the bike shop again and ask how much the basket and charger is and learn you can purchase a repair kit or sign up for support from the bike shop.  You decide you can get the basket cheaper elsewhere so just purchase the charger and opt for the cheaper repair kit option.  When the basket arrives you soon learn it’s not compatible with the bike and you would have to take the handlebars apart for it to fit.  You can’t remember how to take the handlebars apart, let alone put it back together again, and frankly you’re at the point you just can’t be bothered anymore. It all too hard. You also find out the charge time is 5 hours, and the charge only lasts for 2km. Over time the bike is only used for simple short outings on flat roads. You do not enjoy using the bike and resent ever buying it.

These same pitfalls apply to the People Systems journey.  You’re all excited about getting a new system and you can’t wait to get rid of the spreadsheets, manual processes, paper forms and your existing old clunky system.  There is so much you will be able to do with a new system!  You get caught up in the excitement and don’t take the time to really think about what it is exactly you want from the system. What are your key requirements? What is the overall functionality you are seeking and how will the system support your People Strategy and Objectives? What are the top priorities and also longer-term view for a potential solution. Are you considering a single platform or best of breed? Who are the key stakeholders and SMEs that should be involved?  What does this mean for our existing systems? Should you engage with experts in this field?

You can also get caught up the superficial elements of the system with the shiniest one grabbing your attention and not really delving any deeper to make sure it meets your critical needs.  The next flaw is selecting a solution based purely on the lower cost one.  Yes cost is important but what functionality will you be compromising on and how does that align to your key requirements. And, what do these compromises mean resource wise to balance out the shortfalls? Plus, what are the add-ons you need to consider that don’t come standard with the solution? Coupled with this is understanding the small print and, is the shiny system with all the bells and whistles you saw really what you are signing up to and will be getting? Will it be the right fit?

The last part is very important, and always overlooked until the end, but should be known and considered upfront. And that is, how will the system be supported ongoing?  Do you have resources internally who can support the solution? And what support options does the vendor or implementation partner offer? Looping back to the top three flaws, it is important you have a good overall understanding of what is involved and the various aspects.  Secondly, you select the correct system that meets your needs. And lastly you have a solid plan in place to maintain momentum through the challenges of an implementation and beyond.

Don’t let yours be the system that nearly was or the bike that you don’t want to use and is only good in simple conditions.  Take the time, consider all aspects, do your research, plan appropriately, and most importantly involve the right people with the expertise in People Systems Journeys!

Author – Kimberly Cignoli