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Meme #07

The solution is not the solution

What does it mean?

Most global technology and consulting firms today are approaching client problems with a predefined solution in mind. Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” from technology to address complex problems. If this were so simple, the problem would have already been fixed. Yet, organisations tend to go to market for enterprise solutions to address their complex problems. The tendency to “throw technology at the problem” often fails to fully address key end-user needs and also neglects other critical change elements to ensure successful delivery.

We find implementing solutions without really understanding user needs may actually deliver more constraints than value to the organisation. Enterprise solutions typically sell the capabilities or features their system have, forcing companies to comply with their enterprise blueprinting (i.e. adapting their business processes to the flows, features and constraints available in the system bought). This means the new “solution” may not be the solution. You buy features that try to fix every problem, but they don’t necessarily solve your specific problem. Sound familiar?

Finally, these solutions often rely on innovations that are a few years old, instead of leveraging the latest digital patterns and show lengthy release cycles. These are unlikely to bring differentiation, especially when deployed by so many.

Why do we believe it’s important?

With this approach, companies overpay for the solution, but the solution under-solves the business problem and fails to deliver the anticipated benefits. Companies also find themselves tied into a  technology platform in the long term, with little influence on how the technology evolves.

Transformational change first requires a deep understanding of the problem and a focus on the right question. It is only when the underlying issues are identified, that a solution can be considered. By solution, we mean in its broadest sense: while technology will likely be at the heart of the transformation, we must also consider broader changes across people, process and culture to ensure sustainable adoption and achieve the desired outcomes.

How do we put it into practice?

We always take a step back: what problems are we trying to solve? We focus on user needs and then identify the best way to meet them. This may be a system that is available to buy on the market, perhaps with some simple modification using open source technologies, or may require one to build a tailored solution to solve their specific problem. We always look for the most cost-effective and simple solution - that actually meets user needs and does not constrain how they want to work.

For a Global Sustainable Technology Company, we delivered an innovation management tool to enable visibility and management of their research and development activities to their overall return on investment. Alongside understanding existing processes and tools, we focused on really understanding their desired outcomes, capturing requirements as jobs-to-be-done across a diverse global stakeholder group and multiple business units. At the time, each of the business units had a different process; our approach helped them realise their core requirements were the same, but they needed some local flexibility too. Based on their requirements, we identified two possible solutions with different cost profiles from an initial list of 50 tools: a leading enterprise solution and startup company (having ruled out custom build as being too expensive). This gave the company a real choice - while both met needs, they also needed some “smart stitching” to achieve the full potential the company was looking for. Ultimately, our persona-led technology assessment approach allowed the organisation to make a quick and cost-effective decision to meet their specific needs.


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