Thursday, December 6, 2012

CIO Debate: How can you Deliver IT Value without Budget?

Diagnose the current problems holistically, recognize quick win and long term optimization. 

There’s an interesting brainstorming earlier in the CIO forum: “You just got tapped on the shoulder by the boss to spearhead a company-wide deployment of workforce/budget management solutions to every employee. No money and limited skills in IT. What do you do?”. It spurs provocative discussion of the best scenario on how to handle such circumstances and deliver the best value if possible? Though the detailed solution may depend on the size and structure of the enterprise, try to find the pain point for the request and definitely it won’t hurt to take some logic steps:

1. Communicate Business Goals Clearly

The first thing you should do is to get clarification of the CEO's expectations. You should ask how she/he will MEASURE success. If you do not have a clear, measurable understanding of the desired results, you will inevitably end up with an unsatisfied customer. Well define the metrics as well as setting an expectation for achievable results. An early task will be to develop a short high-level business case with the CEO so you know what it could be worth and where it sits alongside other priorities before you waste time on the cost side of the equation.

As CIOs are responsible for the funding, timings and decisions on project investment, you should be able to look at the current portfolio of work and do a bit of contingency, review the current situation versus the requirements laid out by the CEO. At the same time, you will also understand if this is actually something that might already exist in some parts of the organization and is something that can be leveraged for this project (based on the inventory that is created). You have now made room and created a real opportunity to actually support the request from the CEO. 

2. Create a Project

Next step, “not go it alone,” create a project. Identify stakeholders, someone from finance, and key managers. Create a project charter, you should state the risks and success factors so that all the stakeholders understand the implications and get them to agree and sign it. let them know the effort and ensure everyone understands the requirements. Be sure to schedule an update meeting every couple of weeks with stakeholders to show progress and get their feedback. As you know priorities change so this meeting will keep you updated on their thinking. Create a plan and timeline, and bite size deliverables.

  • Start small:  In addition to what has been suggested, start small and create a core team and in the process identify resources from other areas that can assist with the project.  Preferably in an area/function of the company that is receptive to changes the CEO wants to be implemented. You need a supportive leader to keep the group(s) focused while you find and learn creative solutions to implement the process changes and any tools. Once you accomplish this win, leverage it across the organization. Start small and build on the momentum while keeping an eye on the scale, adoption and flexibility.
  • Create three business proposals: Investigate methods of implementing the workforce/budget management solutions, create three business proposals of options and opportunities, not forgetting to cost them up.
  • Find "champion" or "sponsor" of the initiative:  look for allies within the key business units, preferably ones sympathetic to the cause and who have the power in the business to implement the changes, sit them down in a room discuss the requirements, each of the three options and decide on which one is the best based on the criteria, budget (or lack of in this case) and effectiveness. See if any of them have a residual budget in their departments or are willing to contribute budget to the cause, many voices of influence will always be stronger than one.

3. Define a Tight Implementation Framework

Once you have the desired results clearly defined with appropriate metrics, and comprehensive value/cost analysis, you can build a team inclusive of stakeholders and business partners to further define the charter, prioritize and allocate resources. Find a way to engage the full organization in any improvement efforts (soliciting input, feedback, project assignments, etc.). Set stretch goals in addition to published targets to challenge the organization. Strongly communicate to each staff member, setting out clear consistent goals. Measure twice, cut once. Define a tight implementation framework, get the best of breed from all levels of colleagues across the company assigned to the implementation, defines terms of reference, to reach for the change management and 'institutionalization method'.

4. Take the Implementation Step-Wise

A common problem is many enterprise-wide initiatives are developed on such a grand scale, it causes project failure with short of expectation via varies of shareholders. Why not start with a small release in an area that is receptive to change and build on these smaller successes or releases to the enterprise initiative. More specifically, identify one focus area where a pilot can be executed. Take the results of this pilot to the CXX/ Executive team, and leverage to get their support - and funding! Then roll out to the larger population. One further recommendation would be to take the implementation step-wise - Different functions/ departments may see the problem differently, and could need different remedial steps for course correction.

5. Three Characteristics of Such Initiative

1)     The challenge of such initiatives: The scope (cross-functional boundary), The status (uncertainty, unclear goal., etc), the talent (need new mindset), the limited resources, other barriers 

2)  The opportunities for such initiatives: The strategic value (fill up the gap or reduce the waste), oversight the business operation via meaningful exploration, CIO need walk through and cross the functions in order to solve the puzzles 

3)     The resource/talent, process, and methodology in the initiatives:  running as an innovation project, start small, and then scale up, via the CoE, to share the best practices.

In summary, the scenario to take such an initiative/project could be: communicate well, think big, start small; well define business goals, then, diagnose the current problems holistically, recognize quick win and long term optimization; have cross-functional team buy-in, if it's truly the project worth the effort with tangible ROI, budget issues may also be solved accordingly. The impact to the company, the employees, and the IT resources can be clearly gauged before beginning. Taking advantage of the latest technology such as cloud/social/analytics/BPM, etc, it need go hand in hand with change management effort to ensure project success.


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