Thursday, October 26, 2006

Consider policy over process

Its not often I will directly 'advertise' vendor specific events or information, but in this case I found that this webinar, pointed out by Sandy Kemsley on her Column 2 blog, was a great reinforcement of why I made a move to Global 360.

Stories that relate to large brand names like Nike doing things better using a company's technology are OK. When they also communicate best practices and lessons employed and lessons learned the story becomes valuable to a wider audience. In this case, as quoted by Sandy:
Their lessons learned:

  • Consider policy first, then process, then people, then tools
  • Get senior management buy-in
  • "Eat the elephant one bite at a time" -- this is so key, and something that I've written about many times before: do something small as quickly as possible, then add functionality incrementally
  • Rent experts -- how can I disagree with this? :)
  • Leave the rocket scientists at home -- in other words, it's not as complicated as you think it is; keep it simple
  • Build a team that you trust and have confidence in -- provide direction and support, listen to what they need, and stay out of their way

I agree with the points, despite having to think through the first one a few times before it really sunk in. After a moment though I realized the obviousness of it. This really is just a drill down from high level to low level consideration:

  • Policy: defines the goals of the business and the top level constraints / approach for how to get there

  • Process: starting at a high level and working deeper, this reflects how to model, track, manage, enforce and run your business to meet your policies

  • People: now that the process is defined, the right people can be used to handle the tasks that are needed to run the process well. Modeling a process around the people and what they do now is 'paving the cowpath' and just automates bad processes that do not help acheive the business' policies.

  • Tools: as ever the best technical decisions are made last - pick the technology and vendor because they help achieve your goals, not just because they carry the currently fashionable tags.

It all sounds obvious, but often organizations will miss that first stage of setting policies, goals, objectives etc and jump straight to 'process'. That gives no frame of reference, no view of what is 'success', and no view of how much to actually spend on solving the problem. With the right policies in place the next lesson learned, "senior management buy-in", has probably already happened.

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