Selecting and Implementing
Head Scratching – Research
So you have an ideas programme or you are thinking about it. The knee jerk reaction may be to go for the stereotypical solution of some forms, a box marked ‘Suggestions’ and a note book to record everything. (It worked 100 years ago and it will work today, although the form is now usually transcribed onto a computer.) That might suffice alone if there are only a dozen or so of you in the business but if you are getting into three figures for employees you need to supplement this with something a little more robust and able to stand the test of time as well as operating in a timely fashion.
For the next step you would probably use the internal e-mail system and to log what goes on in Excel or even Access. You then realise that you need to record receipt dates, idea details, to which of your colleagues you sent it for review plus outcomes and maybe a little chasing in between. If you are a bit of a computer expert you might even automate some actions with macros etc. At this point it all becomes very time consuming and you look around for easier options. In-house IT is the first stop and they (IT) may even offer to create a programme to do a lot of the repetitive work for you. A word of caution, over the years this option has often failed in the long term when the key design individual moves on or IT increase the maintenance costs or withdraw support, so look for safeguards.
At this point you break out of your internal ‘bubble’ and realise that other organisations have similar programmes and problems as well as solutions, such as externally sourced software. That was the good news. The ‘bad’ news is that the choices are endless as are the decisions to be made. However, it is not that bad, at least there is a solution, but you need to take it a step at a time.
Firstly why an external software? Well, many of the suppliers have been around a while and have a number of customers. They have learnt from them what is needed to do the job, it’s a two-way trade, the customer gets the latest thinking from a broad spectrum of organisations and the supplier is able to incorporate the same into an ever evolving package. Another note of caution when working with the suppliers – there is a difference between
a) being sold a system by a listening supplier to perform your process together with occasional advice on best practice and
b) being told what you want by self appointed ‘gurus’ who simply sell their vision.
Get it right and what you get is a tool that will cover all the elements you need now or in the future either as part of the basic kit or customisable as needed. In other words you are to a great extent future proofed.
You should be able to find the suppliers on-line and they will be happy to talk to you and demonstrate their wares. You also should be able to get impartial advice from your national organisation (eg ideasUK/Ideas Arabia/Ideas America) . The key step now is to get a feel for the sort of cost to do what you want to do for your size and possible complexity of an organisation. This is also a good time to talk to, better still visit, users of the potential software check if there are any user groups. Do some bench marking.
Over nearly twenty years I have run with an in-house software system, one I wrote and maintained myself (pre-Windows – I’m not that good!), an early windows pack from North America and a current twenty first system from Europe, graduating from PC based through internal server to external servers. Along the way I have had exposure to many of the packages of the day and have had feedback from many users. This overview will hopefully help anyone needing to get their heads round this issue.