Change III – Is the solution right?

My previous blog touched on justifying change and having the right level of staff engagement when initiating a change. This blog focuses on the next step of ‘finding a right solution’ for a change.

Is it the right solution

Staff may be on-board and enthusiastic about change but finding the right solution to solve a problem is key to successful implementation. This comes down to asking the right questions. ‘Is the solution right?’ may seem too obvious, but in practice it is one of the most important to ultimate outcomes. Is it the best possible fit given the organisation’s vision, culture, people, abilities, and strategy?

Technology often takes the blame for project failures, but it may not be that the technology was wrong. Instead it could be a wrong fit, was incorrectly understood by the organisation hoping to solve a particular problem or failed during the implementation stage. Applying technology before understanding a problem is the wrong way around.

Cost and value should be the guiding lights. Change should answer a challenge, and therefore the design of any solution must evaluate its anticipated expenses and benefits. However, this equation is almost always much more complicated than simply adding up the direct hard costs of new systems and contract fees. For example, the cost-value analysis should factor in senior management time and staff capability. If the solution is to be to executed successfully, these inputs may represent a significant investment of human resource, and a measurable opportunity cost.

Another important consideration is how well the solution will fit with the specific business considering it. Here it is important to resist hype and peer pressure and focus on the cost-value equation. For example, leading-edge tech may be set to revolutionise certain processes in the insurance sector, but be wholly unsuited to many of the companies competing in the space.
Abundant buzz words and tech marketing claims of a revolution for the insurance industry are too often made by starts-ups that do not understand the underlying data or process complexity. Many businesses fall into the trap of believing tech promises to remove business problems, only to find the solution doesn’t fit or is in-complete.

For example, some companies have embraced artificial intelligence and robotics to deliver radical claims-management benefits. However, these tools, which require new infrastructure and skills to maintain, often prove to be costly white elephants for others. When misapplied, popular solutions may yield the opposite of the intended goal. Managements considering change should be able to say ‘no’ to trendy technological solutions that will not deliver a significant improvement under the cost-value equation within their own business model.
A similar fitness factor is the need to be flexible, to a degree. When selecting a technology solution it is critical to avoid the common trap of trying to bend existing technology too far to make it fit particular issues, changes in process or regulation. Doing so may compromise the overall value proposition.

It can be equally dangerous to flex the status quo too far to make it fit new tech. The large majority of commercial off-the-shelf IT solutions will not fully meet the brief outlined in answer to a given change challenge. That means products come bundled with compromise. Using such products is often the best solution, but those selecting the tool must be careful to ensure the inevitably-resulting compromises will not undermine the firm’s unique advantages, or the efficacy of the solution.

Many factors in addition to those I’ve outlined will contribute to rightness, and therefore to the ultimate success or failure, of a change programme.

To identify and evaluate them, leadership teams and decision makers must fully understand technology buzz words, challenge their assumptions and even their way of thinking to ensure they consider and account for all the possibilities.

The process will help to ensure the selected solution is the best possible from every perspective, and therefore the most likely to deliver successful business change.

Here are a few tips from my experience to consider when selecting a solution in my blog “Pointers on selecting solutions”.

By Parminder Kaur
Director Consulting