As a consultant who specializes in business process improvement, one of the most frustrating aspects of the job is coming back to a client weeks or months later to find out no substantial implementation progress has taken place. We've spent weeks redesigning processes to improve efficiencies only to find out that the flowcharts are sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. When we ask the client "what's happening - why aren't you implementing?" - we get the same answer time and time again - "we've submitted change requests to the IT department and we're still waiting..."
As painful as it is for us - imagine how it must be for the client who hasn't yet realized the benefits from the improved process!
Luckily, a new age is upon us. The days of submitting requests for simple applications to overloaded development teams and hoping/praying that your application is highly prioritized are drawing to a close. The days of IT departments developing applications - only to find they built the wrong thing or key functionality is missing is slowing slipping away.
With the advent of revolutionary shared-infrastructure cloud-computing platforms such as Coghead, the way we interact with clients and the result we are able to achieve are radically different as compared to just one year ago.
In the past we would work side-by-side with our clients to develop a new business process and then leave hoping for a successful implementation later, now we prototype everything. We develop the process first, then sit right there with our clients and develop a mock-up - a mock-up that actually works - with the flowchart still hanging on the wall.
For example, last week we met with one of our clients that needed a new method for prioritizing their customers in to various support levels (gold support, silver support, bronze support, etc.) The problem was, the decision was fraught with emotion. The sales team always wanted "premium support" for every customer. The support team wanted to make sure that premium support was only for customers that REQUIRED premium support (and paid for it!). On top of that, once the support-level decision was made - it never got re-visited! Customers who warranted premium support 2 years ago were still receiving premium support today, even though their expenditures with our client had dropped by 50% or more. Something had to be done.
We worked with the client to develop a new set of criteria that we could use to rank the support needs of each client resulting in an overall "support score." Each client was then reviewed, scored and ranked into the appropriate support tier and here's where the magic of cloud computing comes in... Where in the past we would have used MS Excel to create the "ranking list" - for this client, we used Coghead to develop a web-based support scoring system. In a matter of 2 hours, we had a prototype that the client could use to enter client information and obtain an objective, criteria based decision on where clients should be slotted. What's more - since it was cloud-based and accessible via the web, the entire sales team could enter their information real-time AND re-visit the ranking on a periodic basis.
How long something like this have taken just 2 years ago? Maybe weeks, more likely months (and that is assuming that you could get funding approval!). The world has changed - cloud-computing now allows business to develop or change systems as rapidly as their process change to keep up with their customers' and the business's needs. Just remember, with this amazing power comes responsibility. The great positive that is cloud-computing can easily make things worse if you don't think through your processes before you start building a solution.
Update on 2010-01-06 06:34 by NextWave
The platform-as-a-service provider mentioned in this article was acquired by SAP and is no longer available to the public. Our recommendation? Try dbFlex instead. It's similar to Quickbase or Coghead but for a lower price. (Disclosure: we are a dbFlex partner, but receive no compensation for directing users their way.)