Picking low hanging fruit: not the windfall it seems.

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When exploring multiple new opportunities, it is common business practice to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’, or, identify the ‘quick wins’.

Whilst it is easy to rationalise that these will benefit the business and provide a faster return on investment, it can often be the case that activities supporting the ‘low hanging fruit’ or the ‘quick wins’ are undertaken through an unwillingness to tackle those parts of the opportunity that are perceived as being difficult.

In concentrating both effort and investment on those areas that can be done quickly and easily, there is a strong possibility that the real opportunities, delivering high strategic value and long term business benefits, may be missed.

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This could result as a consequence of:

  • Funding shortfalls affecting the ability to progress or
  • Competitors exploiting evident opportunities and grabbing market share.

When building a business case justifying a solution that supports a business initiative, it is expected that business benefit is included. The described benefit, coupled with a Total Cost of Ownership, provides significant input into the decision as to whether the initiative should be funded or not.

Funding models are largely constrained by the business ‘Financial Year’, where dedicated budgets will be allocated for ‘this year’ with ensuing availability remaining undetermined for subsequent years. This frequently insecure model affects the way projects are undertaken, with the sequencing of activities being affected by questions such as:

  • What can we fit into this year? or
  • What can we do quickly?

rather than what is genuinely best practice for the business long-term.

Deciding to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’ or pursuing the ‘quick wins’ appears to be a result of the funding model rather than any deep analysis of what is the best way to proceed. Often decisions are made not to pursue the more challenging, longer term opportunity, as the payback period is extended beyond what is acceptable to the financiers, who may focus on a narrower perspective of acceptable business benefit.

When defining business benefit it is also essential to factor in the cost of not doing or deferring activities. By proceeding with a ‘quick win’ there will be a benefit – but at what real cost to the business?

Modeling the benefit of an opportunity to a business should incorporate each of the components that make it up, as well as the sequencing and timings when each component would be undertaken.

Without the implementation of the benefits model, the temptation to pursue the quick-win option of ‘picking the low hanging fruit’ may result in forfeiting the golden chalice.

 

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