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Digital Requirements

For those who have worked with me in the past, something that I’ve harped on about is the importance of ensuring that technology follows process, not the other way around 

I’ve said this from years of experience seeing organisations taking the approach of ‘our existing tools won’t change and we’re not going to get any new ones, so how can we shape our processes around them?’.  The artificial limitations that this approach produces means that you are almost certainly imposing inefficiencies on yourself, deviating away from the path that would result in the best customer results, and you are setting yourself up for failure looking for work arounds (and hence making standardisation impossible).  

The approach that I’ve always championed has been to start by designing your optimised process and then looking for the tools that allow you to perform your process.  

Recently though, I’ve been questioning myself on this. Whilst I think building your processes around the constraints of legacy systems is still the wrong approach, what about when you’re looking for new technology? Does it always make sense by designing your process and then going to market – or might a technology first approach be more reasonable?  

Fundamentally, what tech vendors are doing is selling us processes. Salesforce have a process for us to create and convert leads, Monday have a process for us to manage processes, Slack has a process for us to communicate. Equally Microsoft Dynamics offers a different sales process, Asana has a different project management process, and Microsoft Teams has a different take on how we should communicate.  

The question then becomes, where do we start? Under the old paradigm that I encouraged, I would have suggested that you design your ideal sales process, and then have a look at which of the solutions in the market allows you to most closely execute your process. I no longer think that’s the right approach.  


Let’s start by defining a process as the steps needed to convert a set of inputs into a set of desired outputs.  

With this definition in mind, I think what we need to be doing is deciding on what the inputs to our business system are, what outputs the business systems need to produce, any key milestones, and finally the performance targets that we measure the business system against.  

For example, we might decide that our sales business system needs to take contacts (the input) and convert them into new customers (the output) at a rate of 30% within 120 days (the performance target). Along the way, we need to manage the conversion of a contact to a lead, a lead to an opportunity, and an opportunity to a proposal (the milestones).  

From here you should then take these business system requirements, present them to your target vendors, and leave it to them to propose a process for converting your inputs to outputs. You then need to assess and compare the proposed processes and decide which will allow you to most consistently and efficiently achieve your performance targets while balancing any other relevant considerations (such as price and support).  

Would you like to assess the maturity of your ability to identify Digital Requirements? 

The ability to define the requirements of any Digital use case is one of the six elements of Digital Excellence. You can complete a free self-assessment on all six elements, including Digital Requirements here The assessment should take 15 minutes to complete after which you’ll receive an email with your results.  

Please do reach out if you would like to discuss this in any way. 

Ishan Sellahewa 


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