Thursday, May 14, 2015

CIO as Chief Improvement Officer: How to Deliver IT More Effectively?

The core elements of any project are schedule, scope, cost, readiness, and value.

We live in an age where technology is the biggest influencer in business and if projects fail, companies will fail. In the modern world, it is not easy to be a CIO because if things go wrong, they are the "fall guys," and that is the most fundamental thing that needs to change - stop pointing fingers and turn that negative energy into positive energy focused on project success. So what are the core elements of IT project, and how to deliver IT portfolio more effectively, improve project success rate and overall IT maturity?

Senior management sponsorship: The root cause of the problem is a growing willingness on the part of senior management and sponsors to ignore easily visible early warning signs. It needs a combination of Culture, Politics, Policy, Expertise and Technology being in sync and empowered. You can have the best technical team on the planet, but if the leadership (sponsors) is weak or do not fully support the PM, then you're pretty much doomed to failure. The most successful projects are those in which the business and technical (IT) personnel worked in harmony and the leadership fully empowered and supported the PM. That is not to say that these projects didn't have problems because like most projects they did, but the whole team, including sponsors, worked together to resolve them.

The core elements of any project are schedule, scope, cost, readiness and value: The schedule is the dependent variable. The schedule can't be arbitrarily determined in advance. The scope and the resources allocated are independent variables, and can be changed by sponsors. But the schedule is determined by the scope and allocated resources. The schedule is the result of budget constraints, technical constraints, and most commonly ignored, the interdependence between tasks. And it's an iterative process.The organizations who are so successful in delivering its IT projects is to ensure that there is READINESS among other important aspects of schedule, scope and cost. Readiness for both infrastructure and people. Agile principle advocates business value and customer satisfaction over rigid processes. The success of your IT projects significantly depends on how ready the consumers of that project are. If they are not ready, the end result would be a failure from a business perspective.
Lack of proper IT Governance is one important factor for failing projects: Program management is more about business readiness and user adoption and acceptance of change dovetailing into robust IT program governance. Named counterparts from the business and IT need to be held accountable and operate as one through the project/program lifecycle. The lack of accountability leads to work just not being done or a blame culture developing, where no one is actually held accountable to complete the task on time and on the budget. When you look at large projects, the failure rate climbs rather rapidly, and the non-automated estimating processes become less accurate. What is needed is both a change in project management ( more outcomes based) and a change in business value discipline. Often the PM is presented with a no-win situation when the fault was much further back in the process. And when under pressure, the risk factors climb for the delivered code and IT confirms the reputation as being unable to deliver or having unmanageable defects. Don't forget there are also the different Project Manager personalities, many of which just don't tell the truth as it makes them look bad so the sponsors don't have the information they need to make a decision. So the effective governance practice includes a thorough review of the projects based on certain metrics, its is possible to get all lead indicators that the project is going/ likely to go into the warning zone. Gives you enough lead time to intervene and bring it to track.

It is essential for a company to have an up to date understanding of their own IT, sadly many do not and forge head forwards into projects which fail because of that lack of understanding brings. When to look at those really successful organizations that seem to always be able to execute projects and programs well, they mostly have clear, precise and inspiring leadership; engaged and driven employees and technical expertise with following characteristics:
The increase of flow (information, work, people, releases, etc.), decreases of hand-offs (information, work, people, releases, etc.), increasing ability to deliver. Leadership with clear vision, goals and direction are critical at all levels; leaders need to learn more about the technology landscape they are executing on, and last, but not least, people are everything, stop treating them like manageable assets, but human capital to invest in, because they are the foundation to get any work well done.


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