Getting Real Benefits from Systems

Most systems end in screw-ups

People don’t achieve even half the potential benefits of most information systems.

This nears 100% when targeted benefits have not been defined and committed to.

Information systems aren’t just technology. They have five interrelated components: the people who operate them, data, procedures, hardware, and software. Systems make it possible, but people make it happen. If they are not aiming at the right targets they won’t hit them.

Example: Maybe you should employ people to help clients use automatic apps even though that raises operating costs – whether that is stupid or smart depends on the total net benefits – not on short-sighted slogans like reduce costs or maximise automation.

Three-Columns, No Nonsense

Make this list. It is a needed first step. The left hand column list the problems being addressed.

The middle column emphasises information, not technology, stating which information would solve which problem. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the entries in this column are the benefits; they are just vehicles for getting benefits.

Information may not even be the solution. If the problem is it’s raining and we’re getting wet, the solution is go inside, not get a weather report.

The right column, the benefits column (aka the So what? column), is where you describe what it will mean to have and use each listed information solution, and who commits to making the benefits happen. Anything you can sign off here without laughing or crying is a potentially achievable benefit.


Three-columns Benefits Table


You might laugh at the examples. Who would make that sort of commitment?

That is the point. It’s the people who do who succeed with their systems.

Stop projects without such commitment and at least you will save money and time by not going down the road to certain project failure.

While going bankrupt from not getting the necessary systems.

In short, you need systems, a need which includes people committed to using them.

Do the numbers

Benefits you can’t relate to money are not serious (think about it). Assign high, medium, and low probabilities to achieving them so you and others can understand and believe them.

One example: ‘Detailed estimates show 80% certainty that implementing the proposed police communication system will let us save €40,000,000 per year, and a 95% certainty of saving €6 million per year. So every day before implementation costs us €15,000 to €87,000 in lost benefits.’

(95% sure of €6m/365 days = €15,616 up to 80% sure of €40m/365 days = €87,671)

That’s how to set the targets. That’s what you compare to the risks in assessing feasibility.


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