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No shortcuts! Do cloud requirements discovery right

David Taber | June 13, 2017
The discovery phase is the weakest part of any cloud project, but getting it wrong can cost you dearly.

The starting point of deep discovery is to express the system as a series of business processes such as:

  • Target marketing to sales-qualified lead
  • Selling and pipeline management
  • Quote to contract
  • Delivery, installation and customer onboarding
  • Invoicing and collections
  • Warranty and service entitlements
  • Case management and service scheduling
  • Problem resolution and service calls
  • Follow up and customer survey

Larger companies undergoing this analysis will quickly discover that they do not have (and perhaps can never have) a single process stream for the whole business.  Multinational operations probably have significant variations to accommodate, including:

  • Regional or even national business practices (e.g., U.S. vs. Europe vs. Asia)
  • Vertical industry norms and regulatory regimes (for customer privacy, contract rules or accounting)
  • Distribution channels and joint ventures
  • Legacy systems that aren’t part of the project (e.g., ERP or eCommerce)
  • Political fiefdoms both inside and outside the company

Each of these variations needs to be mapped out as a parallel process with its own requirements. 

Companies want to believe that a cloud project can radically simplify the systems mess they’ve built up over the years.  And they can, but only if somebody does serious homework to simplify the process mess they’ve built up over the years.  Simplification means understanding the purpose and interactions among all the moving parts that are there now…and coming up with an intelligent unification and replacement strategy.  Short-cuts only cost you in the long run.

 

The long and winding road

This all sounds involved and expensive and time-consuming because, well, it is.  Both the consultant and the client are well served by a deep discovery process that takes more than the “standard 15 percent” of overall project effort. This is particularly true when a cloud system is replacing one or more legacy systems that have evolved (in both healthy and unhealthy ways) over the years. 

Upper management’s desire for a rushed project must be firmly countered with the knowledge that rushing will produce a new system that automates old habits and reinforces obsolete business rules.  To truly transform the business means doing enough work on the business processes to turn them into an advantage.

 

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