Listen to the Right Voices, Revisited

Salesman of all stripes will understate the risk of a project, especially transitioning to their product. Balance the salesperson’s pitch with criticism from other sources, and be sure to search out real critics before you buy the hype or the product.
Silence can be golden. When the software support team reports few tickets and fewer change requests, this is not an indictment of the tool. Appreciate that your customers like what they have and use it without incident. The Romans said silence was consent, but we need to realize the silence may simply be a lack of complaints, not a silent cry for change, though you’ll certainly hear it when they are unhappy about the changes.
Do not assume that a mature application is begging for an update, and be careful to get input from the silent majority before you decide to do the IT equivalent of freshening up, much less radically redesigning it. Require that they are part of software requirements generation for any redesign and represent a large part of the testing group.

Seth Klarman says that the stock market is a tug of war between greed and fear. When it comes to pushing the envelope, customers need a proper dose of fear when they encounter a contractor or supplier’s greed. When someone says, “Sure, we can do that, though we’ve never really done it before,” listen to the warning bells going off. They are actually sirens screaming, but we too often disregard our own doubts about bad decisions for the desire to seem nice, to go along without offending anyone, regardless of the high passions a messy project will create.

Don’t listen to software suppliers and volunteer to become a guinea pig to a software firm paid to develop a new application, with your company’s IT functionality on the line if they make mistakes. If no one on the market currently has a software interface or tool that does what you need, you’ll receive eager bids to do the work, but it is your responsibility to counterbalance their cries of “of course we can” with a healthy dose of skepticism to manage the risk. Don’t forget to listen to those who voice fears so that you can properly manage the risks.

Have your IT gurus participate in beta testing of the next generation of a software application, long before you consider purchasing or installing it. And their testing should not simply be a test of the admin functions but understanding how users actually use the application. Consider it an investment in both in house expertise and improving the vendor’s product without paying for patches or bug fixes. And listen to their opinions of the software. Don’t just go out and buy software or start re-planning your IT infrastructure due to a team or manager wowed by a demo. Sales people are paid to almost always say yes.

Make certain that the people who know when to say no are involved in the decision making process and have the freedom to say no so you don’t make a major software implementation mistake and then have to optimize around a poor fit.