03 Mar 2020

Why you don't want to skip the design phase

By: Christoph van Balen

3 reasons why to look before you leap before implementing Salesforce technology


Why skipping the Design phase in a software implementation is like building a house without a construction plan. We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. As a result, the interactions between markets, customers, and employees change at an ever growing speed.

This creates new challenges for businesses to keep up. One of them is that assumptions about processes and interactions made in the past become more quickly obsolete. Rigid business software that were actually designed to stimulate and guide desired interactions and work processes are suddenly becoming an obstacle for companies to innovate internally.

Technology first? No way!

However, oftentimes insufficient technology is only the symptom of an underlying issue. In many cases - from the very beginning - the systems themselves were the ones that determined business processes. Often this is due to lower-cost applications that are characterized by a lack of flexibility and one-size-fits-all-processes approach. In sum, processes are rather dictated by systems than the other way around, and, additionally, are even harder to adapt to process innovation.

Design comes first, system second

If you recognize this situation within your own business you may ask yourself how to turn the game around. Well, the key is to turn it upside down. Designing processes before actually translating it into a software application. Starting off with design is like drawing up a solid construction plan before building a house. It lays the foundation for a successful implementation.

Particularly, investing in Design allows you to ask, and ultimately answer fundamental questions on the why and what of process and application innovation. The key here is to focus on to-be processes. Dream big, sketch out future scenarios and bring in different perspectives from various stakeholders. At the end, unavoidably, choices have to be made and requirements to be prioritized before translating them into a flexible solution like, for example, Salesforce.

"I’m glad we chose for a thorough redesign of our digital infrastructure. Working on one single platform makes us more impactful and valuable for our partners. We collaborate better and are more effective and efficient."

Sandra Poelmann, Project Manager and Manager Media Productions amsterdam&partners

“But Design takes time ..?”

“Why bother? We know what we want and a design phase costs time.” This is an often heard question. Why not select a modern IT application and quickly fix the problem? Let me show you why. Take, for example, an off-the-shelf CRM solution. To keep development and implementation costs low, the creators have set up a standard CRM process in the application. This solution is supposed to cover all ranges of Sales processes.

Result? The Sales department has to be organized around the system’s standard processes instead of streamlining processes aligned with internal and external stakeholders’ needs. Thus, the system has determined the processes - instead of the other way around. This phenomenon is very common in practice, but often overlooked as the cause of many process problems. Embracing the motto of Design first, system second, Talent Peaks helps clients in three different ways to guide them through the challenges of digital transformation. “

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1) Discovering root cause instead of symptom analysis

A mismatch between application and business requirements can be quasi resolved by simply implementing a new, and “smarter” IT application without any further analysis on (a) why it currently fails to meet demands and (b) what future processes it needs to support. However, this approach implies focusing on the symptoms by merely replacing the application yet it ignores the root causes that caused the mismatch in the first place.

Drill down to the core of the problem

In the Design phase, we challenge you as a business owner, process owner, employee - whatever role you play in the business - to drill to the core of the problem. We use a number of techniques that lead to sometimes astonishing insights that pave the way for a more effective resolution of the issue at hand. Sometimes it is about bringing the right internal stakeholders into the conversation, at other times it is about providing a fresh, outsider perspective that is based on process and industry experience.

2) Stimulate process innovation

If the process has been identified as the root issue, this can be perceived as a threat or as an opportunity. We encourage our clients to embrace the latter. Process innovation means hard work, but is essentially an ideal occasion to redirect the focus of the company and make your employees’ interaction fit for the future.

In this phase we encourage you to think big, generate new ideas of how to shape interaction between employees and address future market trends. Together with the client’s internal stakeholder, we map out the current business processes. Oftentimes, these processes have been partly shaped by legacy IT applications that did not allow for flexible workflows. The company often had to choose the path that was dictated by these systems.

Picture it this way: the as-is process is a meandering river that needs to be streamlined again to meet the actual business needs: the to-be process. A to-be process differs on a continuum from process modification to revolution. They are all valid forms of process innovation.

"Talent Peaks guided us towards a brand new lead-to-cash process, including marketing automation, CRM, PSA and Finance. Based on a design thinking approach we developed powerful customer and user journeys that are very well received by both customers and colleagues at Attentia!”

Kristof Dujardin, CIO Attentia

Rethinking KPIs

Besides remodeling current interactions among stakeholders, we take process innovation as an opportunity to guide our customers through rethinking process metrics and their effectiveness. KPIs is a great buzz word, but oftentimes KPIs are defined poorly. Additionally, we guide clients through reassessing their market audience by modeling personas that are then linked to modified processes.

Great. You have settled the process and KPI part now. Turns out your current IT application is not suitable for this anymore. Shoot. If there is a need to change IT applications you will undoubtedly run into the question of what are the boxes that the new system has to tick? What is the minimum of features I need so that the employees embrace the new processes as they now feel supported by the system?

3) Gather requirements for a successful implementation

Moving from Design to Implementation

In the design phase, root causes of challenges are identified and, if necessary, processes are modified accordingly. Obviously process innovation needs to be met by a proper change plan such as concise objectives, senior management support and clear communication.

Enhancing adoption

Even though changes in processes go beyond the implementation of a new application. It does play a major role in the adoption process. If it fails to support the new business process it immediately creates extra barriers for employees to adopt it. In addition, senior management will expect suitable tooling to steer on the metrics of the new processes. Thus, it is key to set up the (new) IT application as supportive for business processes as possible.

Flexibility

Achieving this is like an asymptote: there are always some (technical) limitations that impede clients to model the business processes in the tool precisely as required. Some tools allow for much, others for little flexibility. Clients who have decided for Salesforce enjoy a very high degree of such flexibility. Before we can set up the Salesforce features as needed, we create a set of requirements with the client during the Design phase.

Detailed requirements

Breaking down the defined (and possibly revamped) processes allows us to translate high-level requirements to a detailed level that can be implemented and checked by a group of key users. It provides the assurance that the detailed requirements in sum support the overarching process. Depending on the complexity of the project, this can entail anything from a simple overview to an extensive backlog with prioritized user stories ready for implementation.

Stay in control

Additionally, the mapped out processes act as a compass during implementations. Since implementation workshops tend to become very detailed the stakeholders can always revert back to the overarching plan, i.e., what part of the process are we looking at and how does it contribute to the overall outcome?

Take it from the start

Let’s swing back to the beginning of this article. Do you still have doubts about whether Design is really necessary? Just think about the chances that root analysis and process innovation offer you to refocus your business interactions on current and future needs. Only then, you can well grounded translate them into a powerful and flexible IT solution.

We'd love to inspire you

Our design team can help you tackle your business challenges with respect to processes and Salesforce implementations. We challenge, guide, ideate, focus and visualize throughout the different phases described here. Curious about how we guide clients through their digital challenges? We’d love to share some best practices with you. Feel free to contact us for some concrete examples of the impact a design phase has in a digital transformation project.