Owen Hodge

Product Manager

Owen Hodge has been with Headforwards for more than five years. He is a Product Manager currently working with Local Authorities and has more than 10 years' experience working in the software development industry, with roles spanning customer service, operations and product management. He and his wife have a four-month-old baby and a dog called Biscuit and enjoy getting outdoors and exploring Cornwall.

The route to streamlining an organisation and boosting productivity often lies in the integration of software to digitise manual processes or enhance systems. 

In a large and often complex organisation, it is likely that no single tool will solve all business problems. The likelihood is that you will be extending and integrating a range of different solutions, some custom built for your organisation, and others utilising and extending an off the shelf product. 

Here are five things to consider when exploring what the right solution might look like for your organisation: 

1. Aim to be tech-agnostic 

To get the very best results from a new solution, Process Owners should be as agnostic as possible to the technology. Embarking on the process with a fixed idea about the technology can give you a blind spot to the options you might have available to you, and compromise your solution.

We urge people to get expertise involved early in the conversations. Working collaboratively with partners like us that combine strategic advice with architects and developers so that you can establish the most effective solution from a range of perspectives.

Expect to have one, or a number of discovery sessions to explore what the solution needs to deliver for your business and how it needs to interact across your organisation.

2. Don’t assume you can plug in and play

“Off the shelf” software can be a misnomer. For a large organisation, it can be viewed as a cost-effective, and quick to implement solution but very rarely is it a case of plug in and play. Off the shelf products can be extremely extensive and they’re not niched to your exact organisational need so they will require some combination of configuring, customising or integrating to get them working the way you require. 

An off the shelf product could deliver you savings by getting you perhaps 60% of the way there but be realistic in your planning and budgeting of the additional investment in developer time. 

3. Don’t just talk to the software manufacturers

Don’t forget that some of the expertise you might want to listen to is at best biased and at worst, a straight up sales pitch. 

Talk of ‘off the shelf’ and ‘low code’, to a misinformed stakeholder can lead people to believe they’ll be up and running in days, with a brilliant cost saving as an added bonus. 

We have had to do a fair amount of work with clients to reset stakeholder expectations after they’ve committed to a solution that isn’t exactly everything they were promised as they signed up to it. 

Getting independent advice from technology partners who have used it for other clients and aren’t wedded to a single solution can ensure both you and organisational stakeholders are fully aware of the reality.

4. Diversity is always a winner 

Similarly, technical diversity within the team working on the project will ensure a balanced approach: a team of purely Dynamics developers will likely seek a solution in Dynamics, or perhaps write a Power App if that’s their background. A team of purely software developers might ignore out of the box solutions in Dynamics and Power Apps, and instead look to build something entirely custom.

By working with a varied team with a cross section of resource, the result is not limited by tools. Custom development can complement off the shelf solutions to create something unique that fully delivers on the initial brief. It also provides a great opportunity for the team to cross-skill and learn from each other.

5. Broken business process = broken solution

It is important to remember that even the best off the shelf software, or complex bespoke solution won’t fix a broken or inefficient business process.

Before we jump in, sleeves rolled up and start building, configuring and coding, it is crucial that time is taken to understand, and where possible refine the business process. Create an atmosphere within the team where different views and approaches are listened to and come to a sensible design as a collective. Where process is green and still evolving, aim for low complexity in the technical solution, and get something out there early. Try not to focus too much on what might happen, and create an environment where quick iterations on a simple MVP can allow you to respond to the real life usage of the product

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