Step 1: Business Needs Analysis

What programs do you use on a daily basis? What tools do you need regularly but less frequently, and what do you use "once every third blue moon" - regularly enough that you know you need it, but perhaps only for that big annual report?

Studies have shown that nearly all business computer users spend nearly all their time in certain easily-predicted applications. While the needs of each user vary somewhat, the following list is both short and fairly comprehensive:

  • Word-processing software;
  • An email client, usually including contact management;
  • A Web browser (what many people mistakenly call "The Internet");
  • An instant-messaging system;
  • A spreadsheet program;
  • A presentation-graphics program, to generate "slide shows" and such.

Note that all of these (obviously excluding the browser itself) may be either traditional desktop applications installed on each user's computer, or one of several offerings provided entirely over the Web (such as Google Apps). These last two items are less universal than the first four; most business users either rarely use them or depend utterly on them on a daily basis.

You're probably looking at this and saying, "well, that's obvious; doesn't everybody use Microsoft Office, for instance?" Microsoft Office is the second-highest-selling piece of Microsoft software, after Windows itself. (That includes copies of Office that are sold for systems other than Windows; Microsoft Office for the Mac is a very highly-regarded package both in terms of compatibility and improved usability.) And there exist many add-on and complementary products for Office, from Microsoft and other vendors, if you're willing to commit your organization to their software "ecosystem". But other choices are available.

Note that the versions of Microsoft Office released for Windows in 2007 and for the Macintosh in 2008, known internally as "Version 12", use a new file format, called Microsoft Office Open XML, which is tightly bound to but incompatible with the older binary, "standard" document types. These new versions of Office also have a new, significantly different interface which, particularly in the case of Office for Windows, typically requires extensive retraining — to be able to perform the same tasks as were performed with the previous version.

All right, so we understand the problem,as exemplified by word processing. This can be generalized to each of the application areas listed above, as well as any other specific programs being used by the organization.

Now, we identify each of these applications that are presently used by each individual (or job function) within the organization, and a business justification for each application. This iteration of Phase One is complete when we have identified all application types necessary to meet the needs of the organization, created a list of what is being used at present, and listed any known needs for which a business benefit has been shown but which are not being met by currently-deployed software.

On to the next step: application software evaluation and designation.