Problem-solving pathways

The other week I went to hear a speaker talk on leadership in times of crisis…


The other week I went to hear a speaker talk on leadership in times of crisis. I noticed during the question time that lots of people were asking really good questions, but I didn’t think of my good questions until the next day. Irritating but not unusual.


On discussion with a friend, we came to the conclusion that my situation stemmed from two problems. The first issue was that I went to the seminar without having spent time thinking about what specifically I wanted to get out of it. The second issue was that I wasn’t thinking on my feet because I didn’t have the right mental model to analyse the information.


Thinking about this further, I realised that I can make good decisions about IT on my feet because I have a mental model that I use to probe for further information. Consequently I get all the facts I need before making a decision.


This mental model consists of four different aspects of an IT product that I explore before making my decision. They are:

  • The performance aspects.
  • The commercial aspects.
  • The security aspects.
  • The continuity aspects.


Now, for example, if I was looking to buy a CRM (customer relationship management) system, I think I might be asking myself the following questions.


The performance aspects

Does the CRM system do what I want it to do, including can I send out personalised emails to 1000 people without hassle?

How does the calendar integrate with Microsoft Outlook?

How does the contacts integrate with Microsoft Outlook?

Can I record who I have sent invitations out to, who has accepted, and who has declined?

Can I categorise individuals and select people according to category?

How does it handle an individual who belongs to more than one organisation?

How does it handle an individual moving between organisations?

How can extract data?

How can I customise what an opportunity looks like?

How can I network/share the information?

How fast will the application work on my computer?

How does the performance compare to its competitors?



The commercial aspects

How much is the software really going to cost me? – including:

What is the cost for the box product?

Is there annual maintenance fees?

What support do I need to get it going?

How much does the support cost?

What volume discounts are available?

How much is it to buy the software as media and licences, rather than buy boxes?

How old is this version of the product?

When is the next version of the product likely to come out, and will I get a free upgrade?

How does the pricing compare to its competitors?



The security aspects

How is software piracy prevented?

How is the database of customer information secured?

Is the database open? Password protected? Encrypted?

How are backups secured?

Can anyone open up a backup with a text editor and extract information?

Can anyone open up a backup if they have a licensed version of the software and extract information?



The continuity aspects

How does the CRM system back itself up?

Can this backup be automated?

How often should I backup?

How much storage do the backups require?

Who is the beneficial owner of the software and do they have competing products in their stable (will my product be phased out?)

What happens if my database becomes corrupted?

Who provides support in my area?



Now obviously all of the above questions are not a complete list, but it is a fairly good start achieved by just thinking about the four attributes of any IT decision – performance, commercials, security and continuity.


In recent years I have deployed Maximizer, Maximizer Enterprise, Act, Saleslogix and Free CRM. For the Churchill Club I chose Maximizer 8 as the CRM system.


The integration without Outlook is poor, but I like the way it handles my member database and invitations to events. I also like its pricing for the size organisation we are and support is readily available.



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