Current State / Future State

I love current-state and future-state conversations. I think that I like them because talking about the current state, and then the desired future state is a great way to have conversations without feeling the obligation to work on the solution right away. 

Current State

When opening a project, start by talking with the stakeholders about the way that things currently are. Everyone has to be very honest about what is working and what isn’t. Some of the questions you can ask are: 

  1. What do you like about the systems that you are using now? 
  2. What do you find most frustrating about your systems? 
  3. What do you hear other people talking about (either good or bad) regarding our systems? 
  4. What parts of the current system would you want to keep if you were to make a change? 
  5. What other tools have you used that do things better than we do? 

When having a current-state conversation, everyone must be very transparent and concrete about their answers. You can’t merely say, “I’m sure that someone else has a bank reconciliation tool that works better than ours.” You have to give a concrete example of a system that you have used that worked better. You can’t hide behind speculation and wishing. Everyone becomes a reporter who can only report on current-state facts. 

Future State

Next, talk about the future state of the project. Once again: you aren’t solving a problem yet. You are talking about what you want the future to look like. Is it a slicker user interface? Is the access-time too slow? Is it that the system needs to do better calculations than the current configuration file allows you to achieve? 

Some questions that you can ask when thinking about the future state, ask yourself some of these questions: 

  1. If we bought the perfect solution, what would it look like? 
  2. What would we put on a dashboard of the final project? What numbers (and levels of those numbers) would show that the system is being used successfully? 
  3. What features are absolutely necessary for the new system? 
  4. What features would be nice, but we could do without?
  5. When do we need to have the new system up-and-running by? 

Gap Analysis

Now that you have an objective picture of what your current situation is, and what you hope the future looks like, you can figure out how far the divide is between the two. This divide is your gap analysis. 

Sometimes you will find that your current state isn’t too far from your desired future state. Maybe a few touch-ups and an upgrade to your background colours will be enough. Sometimes you will want to throw out your current system and go with something completely new. But having a clear picture of current and future state will help you clearly define the chasm or creek that might define the two. 

Start with a current state analysis, then create a future state picture. From there, you will see the gaps, and most of the time, the solution that will bridge those gaps will start to become very obvious quickly.