Business precedence in IT programs
There is always an underlying power struggle going on in IT implementations between Business and IT teams, but does that have to be the case every time? Mostly the business teams lost earlier, but now there has been a paradigm shift- organizations & System Integrators (SI) have started to acknowledge the importance of the business opinion in IT programs, as they are the ones who are going to use it in the end after all!
What needs to be understood is that the solution that an SI is implementing is not just a piece of technology; it has to solve a business problem and is meant for that very purpose. What good is a solution, which is not user friendly and doesn't solve the problem it set out to conquer?
SIs need to treat business as their customer and think about what will make the end user's work easier. This way SIs will be able to ship out relevant, useful & meaningful solutions which will delight the clients.
Some of the common maladies faced in IT implementations:
· Involving the users at the later stages when all the important design & implementation decisions have been taken.
· Trying to mold the solution according to the Tool's capabilities- Instead it should be emphasized that we choose a tool which can actually implement what is needed by the business (I know SIs do not have this liberty many times, but can still provide their opinion and leave the decision on the client). Choosing a wrong tool can lead to severe heart burns at the end when the client will discover that after spending millions of precious budget dollars they did not get the solution which was required. Instead the client got a fancy but useless technology!
· Half-baked requirements & flawed requirements gathering process leading to misleading specifications
· Haphazard communication
Food for thought:
· Involve business from the word go- Involve representative from every key function and manage interactions efficiently to save everyone's time. Respect people's time they are spending for the process and be well prepared for the interactions.
· Always, and this has to be emphasized, always have the business problem in mind at every stage of the project, just cannot afford to lose sight of it. Critical decisions should be guided by the business goals, aiming to achieve an optimum outcome.
· Try and showcase how the end product will look like before you start coding, let the users have a look at the solution they are going to use. It does not have to be a fully functional solution; just collate some screenshots/ wireframes/Visio diagrams in a power point presentation. All in all, show them what they are going to get and do not start on it until & unless they are happy with it. It is far cost effective for clients to tweak functionalities at the start rather than doing it at the end when the cascading costs will force the client to live with an inefficient solution and will leave the SI with a bad reputation!
· Short Proof of concepts & Prototyping can also help in addition to the above mentioned point to give clients a better feel of the end solution that will be provided.
· Try to know the business direction and the future roadmap for the solution- this will help you have some headroom for future enhancements and will also help in forging a long term mutually beneficial partnership. Why would a client replace an SI which understands their strategy, their roadmap and has been delivering quality solutions? A win-win situation!
· Always emphasize on fluid communication between teams. Failing to communicate effectively and in time is a sure recipe for disaster. Have mechanisms & protocols in place to avoid this pitfall.
· Keep the key stakeholders engaged at every stage of the project. Efficient Program governance comes into the play here; you need seasoned managers closely aligned with accounts which can help with nipping in the bud any issues that might crop up.
· Go for the Iterative approach if possible, this way you will have something to showcase after each Iteration providing quick wins for the business team to showcase to their stakeholders. This is your chance to make them look good!
So let me repeat my question regarding the underlying power struggle, does that have to be the case every time? - NO!
· All said and done, at the end of the day Technology, Management & Business are going to play pivotal roles; this is why we need teams with a good mix of all these domains.
· We need to acknowledge the importance of each type of skill & understand the roles they are going to play. This can make a huge difference.
Balance is the magic word and it's a tight rope for System Integrators!
Please share your views/ experiences with the business involvement and its effects? Eager to listen!