Are you the box?

We know that networking - or all of IT, for that matter, does not exist in a vacuum. IT is the lifeblood of your company, but it's not the only thing. Quite often, IT staff need to addresses the subject of IT thinking "outside the box," that is, seeking input from those outside IT during projects.

This is one of those "common sense is not so common" areas. Sure, it sounds like a gimme that IT would consult the sales department before buying software to support it, but it's not always the case. Sometimes IT may only consult the sales executives, not the people who will work day-to-day with the new system. Sure, the execs may have some good information to help IT craft their project, but they wouldn't necessarily know how everyday tasks are accomplished.

If you've ever made the mistake of not consulting the most important people in a project before a rollout, you'll never make that mistake again. I've seen a few clunkers go by and they are painful. IT is convinced it has the best solution. The product is rolled out, only to find that the "best" isn't good enough, it doesn't address everyday problems or is even less useful than the previous process. All that planning and money is basically wasted, and worse yet, if the project was a major expense you're stuck with it for years.

Instead, IT needs to examine all the key players in a rollout.

Get an organizational chart of all the people affected by the project. Start at the top and meet with representatives from each level of the group to gather specific information you will need. You may find big-picture objectives at the top of the chart ("I want to save money") and granular, everyday objectives as you move down ("I need this to work with our existing database.") By having a detailed list of objectives you can compare it against the features and capabilities of the product you're eyeing so you're not caught off-guard after the purchase and implementation.

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