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We asked you how your biz introduces new IT systems – and here are the results

Who’d have thought that there could be so many approaches to putting new stuff in?

Reg Reader Survey Our recent survey into how we go about introducing new systems threw up a set of responses that were positively multifarious. Who’d have thought that there could be so many approaches to putting new stuff in? Thank-you to everyone who participated. Now let's take a gander at the results.

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Question 1: Who makes the suggestion?

The first question we asked was where the idea comes from. We asked: “In your organization, when it is proposed that a particular new application or system be purchased, who is most often the source of that proposal?”

Almost a third (32.9 per cent) of the 400-plus respondents said that the idea came from someone out in the business – a normal, day-to-day user. Roughly a third of ideas came from within mainstream IT, of which 16 per cent came from IT management and 15 per cent from the techies. 13.6 per cent of people said it was the architects that suggested the new system, and the final 22.5 per cent of the initiative came from the C-suite or the Board.

Let’s have a look at this latter figure for a start: over a fifth of new systems came from an idea from senior management. Of course, in smaller companies this is highly likely as the leaders of the business are likely to be the ones driving the company’s development and hence guiding the direction in which the company’s technology should be going. But it’s nonetheless a pretty chunky figure.

On the flip-side, what’s relatively unsurprising is that nearly half (44.6 per cent) of the direction came from the IT world: after all, they’re the ones who know technology best and, more relevantly, they know what tech (and therefore what products) are there to be bought. Maybe the 13.6 per cent from the architects is a low figure, but it’s likely that many of the respondents’ companies simply don’t have people dedicated to architecture and so they’ve ticked one of the other IT categories.

The reassuring figure, in our view, is the level of input from people out there in the business. As we said above, nearly 33 per cent of new systems were introduced at the behest of the people who would be using them.

And bear in mind that the question wasn’t about people saying: “We could do with a system that does X” – we asked specifically about people proposing “a particular new application or system”. So the business types are saying to the techies: “We really rate this app – can we have it, please?”

Question 2: Product first, or requirements first?

We’ve all experienced the syndrome: the boss comes back from a trade show, or a board meeting of a company they’re a NED for, or a Rotary meeting, or even the pub, and says: “I think we should buy X”. Trade show demo syndrome is particularly good for inducing a desire to buy the new, shiny thing that a consummately smooth pre-sales engineer just showed them using dummy data that gave the best possible impression of what it does and how brilliantly it allegedly works.

So we asked our readers: “In your experience in the IT industry, how has the procurement of new systems generally worked?”.

The first two options were clear-cut. First came the “proper” way of doing stuff – begin with the requirements, check out what’s on the market, evaluate the options and pick something – and almost exactly a quarter said: yes, that’s how we do it.

Then we went for the opposite: coming across the product via trade shows or advertising, checking it out, and buying it if it’s suitable, and in this case 14.6 per cent went for that option. We reckon that a good proportion of these are what you might call “no-brainer” decisions, primarily: “Guys, we need to move to Office 365” – realistically, there’s not really another choice if the motivation is to put the office suite in the cloud.

Then we went on to explore the cases where companies take a mixture of the two approaches. And there wasn’t really a lot in it, in the end. 32.9 per cent said that they went for requirements first with some influence from advertising and shows, and it’s pretty easy to see the logic: once you’ve figured out what you need to make the system do, the stuff that’s been advertised or promoted to you is likely to be on the list of choices of the precise system you use.

Only 5.9 per cent behind, though – 14 of the 410 respondents – said that the kit they’d heard of came first but that they did at least go on to do some proper requirements analysis and design. The reassuring element from this question was that more people went with requirements first than with the product first. The surprise was that the difference was so small – 58 per cent vs. 42 per cent respectively.

Question 3: How hard is it to get approved?

So, once we’ve figured out what product or system we want to buy or build, the final step is to jump through the hoops that lie between a product being chosen and the business allowing it to be paid for and used. So we asked: “How many separate approval steps … does your organization require between selecting a new product for purchasing and being permitted to go live … ?”

The least surprising figure here was that 21.4 per cent said that there were two or three approval steps to take: it was the single most popular choice by a factor of more than two. And the fact that 6.2 per cent said that there was no approval process at all probably reflects the smaller businesses for which some of our respondents work. 5.4 per cent had one approval stage, 9.7 per cent four to six, and 3.5 per cent seven to 10.

But get this: 3.8 per cent, 31 of those who answered, said that there were more than 10 steps in the approval process between picking the system they want to deploy and getting approval to deploy it.

More. Than. Ten. Steps.

Sure, big companies will have committees that vet new products to make sure they don’t already have something that does the same thing, and then there’s the security assessment, and maybe the supply chain risk assessment, and then of course the financial approval. But more than 10? That’s what one might call “a lot”.

And there we have it

So, then, most of our organisations put in systems whose existence is driven by the people in the business who will be the ones who’ll use them. And requirements take precedence over products, but not perhaps by as much as one might expect. And the most popular range of procurement hoops to jump through numbers two or three.

And in 3.8 per cent of businesses, everyone will have retired by the time anything gets through the approval process. ®

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