Can it cure baldness?

Do the solutions implemented by IT managers really fulfil the needs of the business? While the mission of IT managers is to streamline real business flows, the implementation of new systems often fails to address business problems.

To truly deliver process efficiencies, IT managers have to understand that the problem faced by business managers is like being bald. Imagine a man who has been going bald since the age of 16. He’s taken his dietary supplements, he’s been to the specialists, and he’s rubbed every lotion and potion available into his thinning scalp. They’ve all failed, and he has accepted that he is going to be bald — the only decision left is whether to be bald and proud, or wear a wig.

However, the IT department insists he has a full head of hair.

Take a look at the procure-to-pay cycle in most companies. Sophisticated ERP systems have streamlined the business process internally, so IT departments will say: “We have delivered, we have solved the problem for the business, we have cured baldness.” Looking at how the output of these systems reaches the outside world, you realise that nothing much has changed at all, as many processes must continue manually outside the e-business environment before a business can collect its money. Someone still has to stand over a fax machine and fax purchase orders to suppliers, manually file documents, and print out and pass remittance notices to the mailroom for stuffing and posting.

To a business manager, the miracle cure for his business problem was just another ‘nice try’. Like the bald man who has come to accept his baldness, the business manager is resigned to accepting that most of his business must be paper-based.

IT departments believe that they have cured the problem and are therefore not looking for a solution. It doesn’t help that many IT managers have taken the miracle cure money to cure the baldness problem, and all they have to show for it is a wig.

The ultimate responsibility of IT managers is to become experts on the businesses they work in and really get to the root of the problem — only then will they be able to deliver tangible business benefits instead of empty promises.

James Elkington is managing director of Esker Software

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