When I talk with IT leaders, whether they’re at companies as big as the top of the Fortune 500 list, or much smaller, I hear stories about the dark underbelly of business process automation. Just the other day I had an example from the top IT troubleshooter at a Fortune 10 pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Millions of dollars had been invested in their Tier 1 ERP system implementation, and it has been in production for well over a year. The CEO called up the troubleshooter and said: “We have a huge problem. I’ve just learned we are millions in arrears in payments to a large number of our vendors, and we are many months in arrears. I want it fixed this week!”

After some investigation, the culprit was discovered:  accounts payable staff in the workflow were seeing the EMAILS for payment of invoices, BUT had no way to actually see the INVOICES in order to pay them! A seemingly simple process step, and certainly one that you would think would have been tested early in the implementation, yet clearly, it did not work!

A minor code change, testing and roll-out to production – problem solved. 

That kind of glitch is surprisingly typical.  What gaps in your system are reducing the benefit of the investment you’ve made in your systems? How do you find those gaps BEFORE they cause significant issues?

The best and quickest way to identify gaps is to ask users. A short 3 question survey should provide all the data points you need to understand what, if any, gaps exist. The questions:

  1. What (software) systems do you use the most)?
  2. How well do these systems help you accomplish your daily work? (scale of 1 – 5)
  3. Are there any steps in your daily work that you do outside the system, using manual notes, spreadsheets or other methods to accomplish your tasks? (Y/N)
    1. If so, please describe the task and how you accomplish it.
    2. Describe why the system fails to help you with this task.

Sending a survey like this out every 6-12 months will shine a light on gaps “hiding in the dark” and stop anecdotes like this from making it into the “enterprise software implementations suck” annals!