Many times we are so excited to implement a new idea or solve a recently elevated business problem that we forget to stop for a moment and reflect on the direction we are taking. I know you’ve been there. The pieces of the puzzle finally fit together and you know exactly how to move forward. This is an exciting moment. It is also time to take a deep breathe and ask yourself a few questions before committing resources to your new technology project.
Two questions to frame up the project:
- What problem does this solve? Be careful not to describe the solution, but to fully articulate the problem or opportunity. For a humorous read on this subject, try Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is by Donald C. Gause and Gerald Weinberg.
- What does the solution look like? Describe the potential solution to the problem in as much detail as possible. It can also be a good idea to get together a small team of people who understand the problem (or better yet live with it everyday) and ask them what they think the solution looks like.
Three questions to evaluate the project.
- What is the potential upside of solving this problem? What do you stand to gain or save as a result of a successful project implementation?
- What are the risks? There are many ways to think about risks, so think about what will happen if you can’t implement this project successfully and what will happen if you do. Could this project have an unanticipated side effect?
- How much will it cost me to solve this problem? There are a variety of ways to find this answer (sending out an RFP, having internal staff provide estimates, etc). Be sure you think through the costs of managing any changes required to implement the new solution. For example, upgrading your accounting system will involve revising a few business processes and retraining staff members.
Now, ask yourself, is the potential upside greater than how much it will cost you to implement? And is the project worth the potential risks? And is there anything better we could be investing in?