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In case you didn’t get the memo, shrink-wrapped software is on its way to extinction if not already dead. Contrary to rigid, pre-defined programs, Web-based technologies let employees decide what they need, and how they need it, to best be able to capitalize on information for the good of the company versus thinking inside the box, so to speak. You know you want to bring more of your systems to the web. But actually doing that is going to be tough. What follows are the guiding principles for planning web-based IT systems implementations that, in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, “go all the way to 11.”

1. Know your systems

Take inventory. Assessing stock should be first and foremost in taking advantage of the Web for your business. You won’t be returning any immediate ROI with this task, but it’s essential to creating any solution to the problems you’ve uncovered. So survey the land before you develop on it. Know what hardware, software and people you have at your disposal.

You don’t have to go overboard and can do it on the cheap if you have to. Inventory auditing and asset management tools are available to buy or try for free. Or you can go around with a notebook and a pen and make up your own list. Whatever you do, keep it handy and make sure you maintain it. Separate your hardware from your software. Know which versions you own. And start taking note of what’s being used and what’s sitting on the shelf collecting proverbial dust.

2. Know your stakeholders

Who will be using your systems? Once you’ve created your technology inventory you should also create an inventory of stakeholders. Stakeholders can be both in-house (i.e. behind the firewall) and out of house (i.e. in front of the firewall). They don’t always have to be direct employees or customers of the company either. They can be vendors, visitors, referrers, curiosity seekers and prospective employees too. Keep a roster of them as a reminder of who you’re serving and what their needs are. Give them names and a profile. “George is the inventory manager for our wholesaler. His time is divided between the warehouse and the office. He rarely travels. His main concerns are for keeping inventory fresh and managing shipments.” Whatever you do, make that person human. That way you’re thinking in terms of his/her needs and not the system’s. Even though you’ve named your group with a single person, note how large the group is now and how large it has the potential to be. Remember, stakeholders don’t always shave to be direct employees or customers of the company. They can be vendors. They can be visitors. They can be referrers, curiosity seekers and prospective employees too. Keep a roster of these people as a reminder of who you’re serving and what their needs are.


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