Posted by: DrAlanRae | December 10, 2008

Just enough Structure

One of the reasons that companies get stuck is that they are not prepared to make the changes that are needed to get to the next level. Companies go through clearly defined stages by growing quite quickly till some behaviour limitation becomes apparent. Then if you won’t change you get stuck.

For instance, once you start employing staff and look to obtain a base load of business from a larger customer you enter what we’ve started to call the dawn of formality. You will need to keep evidence that you’re behaving as a professional company and this means IT to keep the records in a structured way.

In many industries, you have regulatory issues which drive you in that direction. Even a small company making sandwiches is subject to food traceability regulations. One of the most interesting findings from our “Abandoned Heroes” Research Project was the extent to which compliance with regulations or larger trading partners has become a major driver of IT uptake in smaller companies.[1]

You need an IT system that delivers what you need – easily

i. Communication

ii. Control

iii. Compliance

iv. Formality

v. Scalability

It will likely need a server. What finally drives you forward will be one or more of the 3 main drivers

  • Expansion aka Greed
  • Need for security and control aka Fear
  • Need to communicate or take part in web 2.0 activities – aka Fashion

This is illustrated in a diagram which started life as a qualification tool and then became a core part of the IT development part of Tranee – an EU funded project to help small Eastern European Transport companies become e-enabled. Here it is


The main drivers are shown by category together with some of the products that a company might use.

There’s not a lot of professional help out there for the poor soul tasked with keeping the network going in a 10 man company. Even our resident expert is approaching her design limits and she’s been at it all her life.

You may need to consider when you’re getting your system installed that you definitely need some one who knows what they’re doing to install it and someone who kind of knows what they’re doing to maintain it. With ready access to the cavalry.

You may be in some doubt about whether you need professional help with scoping the project. Here is a rough rule of thumb courtesy of the Buy-IT guidelines – originally written by my old pal Peter Duschinsky.[2]


How many applications x how many people involved x Number of months.

If this number is less than 10 you can just busk it. If it’s more than 30 you definitely need professional help. If it’s in between it depends.

I once had a client who ran a company that made hydraulic seals. He told me he was buying a new production system. He said “I don’t need you to help me choose it but I do want you to frighten my team into believing they need a project manager – they don’t believe it.”

So I set up a workshop and asked the questions – it was open and shut – the first 2 variables came to about 40 – job done.

[1] You can buy the Abandoned Heroes report here – it’s also summarised in the workbook

[2] Peter is an interesting man who knows lots about e-procurement – his website is


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