Beware over-engineering

One of the greatest dangers of having access to the latest and greatest technology is over-engineering. That is, searching for ways to automate processes that really don’t need to be automated. I was reminded of this last week by an email from a friend, which he has given me permission to quote here:

We bought ERP software for work orders, sales orders, parts inventory, etc. Have not been impressed but fortunately I don’t have to deal with it much.

The reason for the e-mail is that one of the pieces is the annual performance review. We used to fill out an electronic form, I think it was a Word document, and it was straightforward, sort of a hybrid electronic/paper system.

Now we have this new system, that we all use once a year, for the annual performance review.  For this once a year use, all managers had to sit through one hour of training. We received a 40 page instruction document that consisted of screen shots, and it was extremely handy because nothing was intuitive.

I just received a five page document as to how to print out the annual performance appraisal.  This too was necessary.

As I explained to my friend, this sounds like a classic case of over-engineering. I’d bet if his company added up all the hours that were spent to purchase, install, test, and train on the software and compare that to how much time was spent on doing things manually, they’d find the manual way was far less expensive.

As I often tell my clients, NO ONE loves software more than me. I’m a huge geek and love to automate anything I can. But even I know there are times when “using the computer” is far more labor intensive than actually doing things by hand. Just because you can automate it doesn’t mean you should.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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