At Dreamforce last week, conversations turned to good and bad ways of implementing a new CRM system—and really, any enterprise technology that’s helping automate business processes.
There’s an old saying among system integrators: “Don’t pave the cow paths!” Far too many tool implementations start out trying to replicate an existing tool, and how it supports an existing process…just with a responsive design UI, SaaS packaging, RESTful APIs, and other trappings of modern software. In other words, people are taking the existing cow paths (processes) and paving them (modernizing the platform.)
This is a terrible idea. Tactically, software is designed and built to be used a particular way. If your existing processes differ from the software developers’ assumptions—and they likely do—then the implementation will be going against the grain. It will be costlier, riskier, more difficult to use, and much harder to upgrade. I expect many of you are shaking your heads ruefully now, having lived through this.
More strategically, it’s a terrible idea because…2016! A lot of things have changed since your processes were designed. Best practices (like KCS℠) have emerged. Millennials have entered the workplace. Compliance is out; alignment and empowerment are in. Social, mobile, and collaborative are new ways of working. It’s a good time to make sure your processes are really the best they could be. And once you’ve paved the cow paths, it’s hard to get Bossy to “think different.”
So how do we decide what our new processes should be? Have a look at where the grass is worn.
Landscape architects use the phrase “Pathways of Desire.” They know that if you want to know where to put walking paths in a lawn, the best way to do it is to see where people walk naturally, and then turn the most popular routes into the official ones. When I was talking about this with an Australian colleague at Dreamforce, she lit up and said, “Goat Paths!” Where the goats naturally go is where you want to help them go.
How does your team work outside of your existing processes? Do they hate to fill out a complex escalation form, but work effectively inside of a collaboration tool? Is it pulling teeth to get them to contribute to a knowledge base, but they gladly share information on a wiki? What is it about what they’re actually doing that is easier and better than what you’re asking them to do, and how can you make it easier for them to follow the paths they’ve developed?
So remember: Paving cow paths is bad. Paving goat paths is good. Now, if we could only herd those darn cats.