Scoping your System Needs and Options

There is a common belief that if you have ineffective, inefficient or completely arbitrary processes, a system can fix things immediately. You know, this magical little box (aka a new computer system) will be installed somewhere in your office and suddenly things will work smoothly. Soooooo not true.

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In many cases, ineffectiveness and inefficiencies within an organisation are a result of process problems. Sometimes processes are not captured in a way that can be easily referred to. Sometimes processes have minor inefficiencies or fundamental flaws that mean they do not deliver the value that is expected from them. And sometimes processes are not written down at all!

Where these are the issues at play, you are best to start thinking through your processes. No developer can create a solution that delivers what a user needs if no one has clearly defined what the user needs or what process the system needs to support. Getting a system developed without first having clear processes and clear system requirements is a recipe for a very expensive and embarrassing disaster.

So before delving into the deep end of system development, and usually before you start talking budget, approvals and procurement, it is important to take a deep breath and:

  1. Make sure that the processes that need a system are written down, have been improved and have been agreed to by your stakeholders.
  2. Properly scope your system needs in terms of the processes and other user activities it needs to support, as well as any other technical specifications. These are often documented in ‘requirements specification’ documents.
  3. Prioritise and weight your requirements so that you know what the system must deliver to make it worthwhile to your organisation and what is not so essential (and can be addressed outside the system if needed or at a later stage).
  4. Do your research and assessment so that you can make a well-informed decision or recommendation about what system vision you are going to pursue, based on key considerations like business needs, timeframes, cost and quality.