The most frequently asked question, and five most commonly used words in systems integration: “Why Did We Do That?!” I’ll tell you why you probably did it. We don’t have a very good method of documenting lessons learned or repeat mistakes on projects in this industry.
A common example: When we substitute a product in a complex system chain and then spend thousands of dollars troubleshooting an issue that saved the customer hundreds of dollars.
Where do decisions get made, and how does that decision get communicated across the entire company? There aren’t enough contingency dollars in most bids to thoroughly test the new products we’ve integrated into a project for the first time.
Our scope of work documents are often very heavily driven by specifications, and not driven enough by client expectation. Upon project completion, the client calls the boss, who goes out to the jobsite to check on things. The boss calls back to the office and asks: “Why did we do that?” The most common answer seems to be: “Because it was in the spec.”
It would be great if our industry could get to the point where we ask this question instead: “Have we done that yet?” It seems far more strategic and productive.
To help with this, we should track how many times a day we ask or get asked a question that receives the same response each time. If you notice a pattern, document both the question and the answer. And then develop a method for communicating that information out to all parties involved.
Here are some tips:
- Documentation must include some level of consistency so it’s easy to read and understand.
- Anything you’ve determined to be a “standard” should be documented and stored for easy reuse.
- Create short articles, blogs, videos, or other content that customers can also reference about systems and the user experience if the questions sometimes come from them.
- Utilize templates so you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you document something.
Sometimes simplicity is far from simple, but we can do better for ourselves and our clients by streamlining and documenting as much as possible to keep everyone on the same page. –Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director
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