Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Keep Sight Of The Target

I had an interesting experience this weekend that really got me thinking about the approach to enterprise applications. Hang with me for this little ride and see if it strikes you the same way.

My back gives me a little trouble most of the time and some big trouble ever few years. No big deal, I've learned to deal with it, but the big trouble events usually drive me to the doctor's office. Last Sunday morning as a big trouble event, so I called the Urgent Care center Sunday morning - explained the situation and they had me come right over. After checking in with the receptionist, the nursing staff pulled me into an exam room and explained their new "Proactive Office Visit" procedure. The idea is that, while a patient is in the office, they'll check their medical records and see if any tests, shots or other procedures need to be done. If so, they'll get done while the patient is in the office. So, I think to myself, they're going to catch me up on everything while I'm here and save me from the trouble of future visits to take care of this stuff...pretty slick idea at first blush. So they ran a few tests, took some x-rays (ironically, as it turns out, the x-rays were of my back) and gave me a pneumonia shot, after which they told me "...you're all done, you can go home now." This last statement was a bit troublesome to me, as I had yet to see the doctor about the problem that brought me to Urgent Care in the first place. I shared my concern, which caused quite a bit of puzzlement with the nurses, as their procedure for the "Proactive Office Visit" instructed the nurses to send patients home once the procedure was complete. I wound up have to be rather insistent, in my own gentle and understated way, in order to finally see a doctor and get some relief for my back pain.

The issue here is that the nursing staff, in following the "Proactive Office Visit" procedure, lost sight of the customer target. In this case, I was the customer and the target was relief of the back pain I was experiencing at that particular moment. The "nice to do" stuff got addressed easily but the "must do" item fell out of sight for a bit.

I think those of us in the enterprise applications world sometimes get caught up in the same type of problem. We see spiffy technology and immediately begin to think of all the "nice to do" value we can bring to the enterprise (social networking, slicker reports, flashier user interfaces, etc.). We sometimes forget that our customer has a list of "must do" items that, at least in his or her mind, take precedence over the "nice to do" stuff. Much of that "must do" stuff relates back to the categories of better, faster or cheaper (can I get better information to make better decisions, can I deliver a service faster, can I deliver a good or service cheaper...that sort of thing). I'll take it even further...in many enterprises, IT is loosing it's seat at the strategic decision-making table specifically due to failure in addressing that "must do" list. We're so dazzled with cool technology that we've lost sight of the target.

So my thinking here is, as you consider your incorporation of new technology to extend your current enterprise apps functionality, maybe you should make your decisions in light of customer "must do" lists? Ditto for enterprise application upgrades, whether they be EBS, PeopleSoft, JDE, Siebel, Fusion Apps, Retek, SAP, or whatever. Technology is an enabler, much in the same way that a hammer is an enabler for building a house...the trick here is to keep sight of the target. Are you building houses or just delivering a state-of-the-art hammer?

I think this may be a core idea that I'll want to explore and discuss further at Oracle-related conferences over the next year or so, preferably drilling from abstract stuff (like this post) down to the details of getting it done. Who would have thought I'd find a silver lining like this from a little pain in the rear? Find the comments and let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

You're right on target!

Anonymous said...

First of all, wish you a quick and speedy recovery from your bad back.

What a wonderful analogy about aches and pains in real life and for enterprise application users!

I think it would be great to have a 'healing session' at Collaborate'09 where you can discuss your ERP experiences and these wonderful life event analogies!