A Proven Method For Successful Installations
Analyzing an organization's business processes with a specific methodology has helped this document management integrator close deals and increase gross sales by 30%.
Selling a concept is not as easy as selling something tangible. How do you put a price tag on efficiency? How much is quality customer service worth? What is the charge for better organization within a company?
Lynn Luxenberg, founder and principal of Systems Solutions, Inc., says integrators must sell the concept of document management to be successful. "Document management is not a product. Document management is a concept that will help a business accomplish its mission," says Luxenberg. "This means identifying a customer's business problem and then applying technology to solve it. Customers don't always understand why they buy technology; that is why we sell technology as a solution to their business problem."
Luxenberg has been solving business problems since 1987 when she founded Systems Solutions. The Denver-based company installed its first COLD (computer output to laser disk) system in 1989 and began integrating COLD and document imaging technologies in 1991. During this time, Luxenberg has developed a specific methodology for convincing companies to invest in document management technology. The methodology is ingrained into the employees at Systems Solutions.
The Need For A Methodology
After installing four document imaging systems, Luxenberg realized there was a definite process for implementing document management technology. This revelation led her to create a methodology for doing so. Since its inception, the methodology has been refined to the point where it defines Systems Solutions.
The methodology is rooted in two assumptions. The first is that a systems integrator must thoroughly understand a customer's business objectives. Secondly, customers do not understand technology well enough to know what should be implemented. "As a result, a systems integrator must wear two hats," comments Luxenberg. "An integrator has to make the business case for implementing technology and then also have the expertise to implement it. The fact that we have a methodology for accomplishing both objectives is not unique. What distinguishes us is our entire staff actually follows this methodology."
Analyze A Customer's Work Process
The first step, and the most important in the methodology, is to conduct a business analysis of a customer. Even though this step is crucial, Luxenberg feels most integrators skip it. This process allows Systems Solutions to formulate a business case for implementing new technology. "Because we sell document management as a concept, we believe that almost every company can save money and improve work processes by improving its document management," says Luxenberg. "We have to determine where a company should start and make a case for the concept."
Systems Solutions has process analysts who go into an organization and analyze the work processes of a company. For example, a process analyst with expertise in finance would evaluate a company's accounts payable department and examine how documents flow through it. This includes how a company receives its bills, how the bills move throughout the company for approval and, ultimately, how the bills are paid. The result of the analysis usually reveals that a company is in what Luxenberg calls Phase One. This means a company is reviewing its document management strategy for the first time. "These companies are only beginning to understand how critical document management is to the success of their business. Their competitors are implementing this technology and document management is becoming an issue," says Luxenberg.
Depending on the size of a company and how many process analysts are used, a business analysis takes between one and four weeks. When Systems Solutions has completed the business analysis, the resultant document accomplishes three objectives: a business case for implementing technology, a recommendation of a system to be installed, and a cost justification for the installation.
Lack Of Analysis Leads To Failed Systems
Systems Solutions uses the business analysis to design and justify a system installation for the customer. However, Luxenberg says most integrators omit this critical step. "Only about 10% of integrators do a thorough business analysis. That is why 80% of all document management installations fail," says Luxenberg. Using these numbers, she says that about 10% of systems will be successful even without a proper business analysis. This type of success causes problems. She says, "Even if an integrator has a successful installation without following this methodology, it does not mean that success will ever be repeated."
To be accurate, Luxenberg's definition of a failed installation is a system that does not solve an organization's business problem. "A lot of systems work, but that does not necessarily mean that a company's business problem has been solved," states Luxenberg. She says an integrator may install a high-end workflow system for a company which has different workflow processes. While the users know how to use the system, the business problem was not solved. "Instead of improving the original process, the process was merely automated. As a result, the company now has even more processes to follow," says Luxenberg.
She believes most integrators make the mistake of letting salespeople perform the business analysis. When salespeople do the analysis, it is not documented as thoroughly as it should be. When the analysis has holes in it, integrators are left to use their own judgment. According to Luxenberg, this explains why so many systems are installed and not even used.
Getting Everyone On The Same Page
Once a company understands the business analysis, most proceed to the next step in Systems Solutions' methodology. The next phase is for Systems Solutions to determine the functional and technical design of a system. The functional design involves reengineering the work processes of an organization and the technical design supports this functional design. "The functional design is written for a company's management and employees who will actually use the new system," states Luxenberg. "It explains in practical terms how the technology will be implemented."
If Systems Solutions proposes a company should scan documents instead of microfilming, the functional design addresses this process change. This particular functional design would include such items as document preparation, number of employees and their responsibilities, the process for scanning and storing documents, and security issues. The document is written so that it can be read by every employee affected by the new system.
The technical design document is presented to the customer's IT (information technology) staff for its approval. "The IT staff can verify that it can technically support the technology we are recommending," says Luxenberg. For example, if Systems Solutions is adding another database, the IT staff can confirm that the new database will work with an existing system or can be supported separately.
Deploying A Successful System
At this point, Systems Solutions has made a compelling business case for a company to implement new technology. Also, both the management and the IT staff at the company understand and agree with the functional and technical design of the new system. The last step in Systems Solutions methodology is to implement the new system and train the employees on how to use it.
According to Luxenberg, because the methodology has been followed, implementing the new system is fairly easy for her company. She admits that installing a new system used to be the most difficult aspect of the methodology, but that has changed over time. "We have been doing systems integration for 10 years and we now have expertise in this area. Once we and the customer have complete agreement on a system, we can do the type of custom integration that is required," comments Luxenberg.
Following the installation, Systems Solutions also handles every aspect of training. The training program is uniquely designed for each customer and system. While Systems Solutions prefers to train select company personnel and have them carry out the training to the rest of the employees, this is not always possible. For companies with limited personnel, Systems Solutions has on-site training classes for employees.
Hiring technical writers has been a key to providing quality training. Technical writers at Systems Solutions prepare training manuals which are appropriate for both the users and IT staff at a company. These technical writers also produce documentation which helps a company train new employees who are hired by the company.
Putting Together The Right Staff
The cost to VARs to implement this type of methodology is not cheap because an integrator's entire staff is affected. Lauren Sigman, principal of Systems Solutions and a Harvard Business School graduate, joined in 1996. She is now the implementation director at the company. Luxenberg has also hired a staff of process analysts. Many of these analysts come from Big Four accounting firms and have expertise in the financial arena. "These employees can analyze the workflow of an accounts payable department, regardless of what vertical market the organization comprises," adds Luxenberg.
Revamping an entire staff can be prohibitively expensive for most integrators. Luxenberg recommends starting with one process analyst and building a staff over time. "You can accomplish a great deal with one process analyst. It is a matter of hiring someone who is sharp and has the proper qualifications," states Luxenberg.
Charging For Services
Systems Solutions charges for every aspect of the methodology and Luxenberg feels this is important. "Every step in the methodology is important to the success of the system," comments Luxenberg. "Many integrators aren't diligent enough when evaluating a company's business processes, design proposal and training. Consequently, they don't charge for these services. I find an organization is willing to pay an integrator for these services if the result is a successful installation."