Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beware the 'it does it all' sales pitch!

Have you ever had a sales person come to you and offer you a product that is so good that it does everything you could ever want it to?  It will reduce present workloads, relieve stress and makes everyone's life a lot more pleasant.  I have.

This type of sales pitch is standard among the modern IT companies who come 'bringing IT solutions' that are 'guaranteed to save you time and money'.


I have yet to see an IT system for standard processes that really saves a lot of money and makes life easier.  So I might be a little narrow in my experience but I have yet to be convinced that real gains in productivity and time can be made.

Case in point number 1.

1.   Finance systems.  A good finance system should do a few things and do them well.  Pay the bills, tell users about financial performance and do budgets.  The amount of data that requires entering does not decrease.

What I have seen happen is an initial reduction of finance office staff with a view that there should be less work BUT this is not true!  All the invoices still need to be entered, the budget figures need entering and someone has to do manual reconciliations.

Case in point number 2.

2.   Student management systems (SMS).  Basically a SMS is a giant database that captures and records the data relating to students in an academic institution.  The program is only as good as the information that is entered into it.  So there have to be operators who actually have to enter the data.  Like the financial system the amount of data that has to be typed in does not decrease.  Even with automated systems registrars and back office people are still required to check the data and make sure it is correct.

Here's what I think.  When a new IT system is introduced what happens is the labor (people) required to operate the system are simply shuffled around.  That is the tasks are moved from one office to another and few real gains are made.  More IT professionals are needed to make sure the system works and is maintained, more input staff are required at the coal face (or wherever they may sit) to actually input the data and the only real 'savings' produced are on paper for the department for whom the systems have changed.

I have no issue with no systems and room for improvement.  I absolutely agree that changes must be made in order to keep up with ever changing technology.

My beef is with the way these 'do it all' systems get sold to the customers.  So when I hear a new system is being implemented that is going to save time, money and reduce the workforce – please excuse me if I roll my eyes and sigh.  No – I don’t believe your over-hyped sales pitch.

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