Monday, November 23, 2009

IT failures ? Business' challenges

I recently read about the global annual cost of IT failures wherein the author based on certain assumptions puts the figure at US$ 6.2 trillion. It’s almost half of the US GDP number and that is indeed something to think about. Never mind the assumptions or the math behind the figures, the reality is that this humungous number is being labeled as IT failure. The Standish Group report on reasons behind the lack of success in projects with significant IT components indicates that IT contribution to unsuccessful projects is less than 10%. So in reality the number would be closer to US$ 620 billion. And that is about half the GDP of India !

Knowing a bit about IT, I would label this as a business failure to capitalize on the potential that IT could have offered to them. Why does every initiative have to result in painful change management that the IT organization has to drive ? What prevents the business users from embracing new technology solutions despite their vocalization of the requirements in some form or other ? Lots of questions, are there any answers that provide the holy grail to impact the crazy figures out there ?

My Oh I See moment happened many years back when my obstinacy to not start a project without a signature from the business leader delayed the project commencement by 11 months. And when we did complete the project within the stipulated time of 6 months, it was like water to the desert weary traveler who has even stopped believing in mirages. So don’t push hard to implement the next SCM, CRM, or whatever TLA (Three Letter Acronym) technology you believe will make the difference, because it will not if no one uses it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Business buy-in ? Why do we need that ?

In a panel discussion involving a few vendors and CIOs, someone asked a question to the panel. “My business users do not seem to be interested in the project, even though I know for a fact that the implementation will create big benefit. How do I get business buy-in ?”. This kind of question comes up every so often (words change, context is similar) as if evolution will be denied to a few.

It is amazing to see that IT heads in their enthusiasm to push ahead ignore the signs of discomfort or lack of interest, rarely pause to reflect upon the message coming across quite clearly that “No !”, we are not interested in this wonderful project. In some cases, it could be due to the inability of the CIO to articulate the project clearly enough for everyone to understand and be on the same page. Thus the business case is not compelling enough or the benefit statement is not a true reflection of the real case.

It could also be that there are other priorities that consume the business users and thus they would rather have the CIO focus on them as compared to the latest trend or new fad which the IT vendor may be interested in selling. In a few rare cases, the digital divide between the CIO and the CXO may be the raison-d’ĂȘtre for the disinterest in moving ahead.

The basic principle in all cases is listening first, and then talk. Communication is not about your ability to use your linguistic skills such that the other needs a dictionary to decipher, but to ensure that you understand the frame of reference of the listener. Effective communication always happens when the involved stakeholders share a common interest and are willing to listen to each other.

Finally, if you are still facing the same question, then stop pursuing it. After all you do not want a scenario where the system is developed to specifications that were sketchy and no one uses it. Why are you interested in the project when your customer is not ? Sometimes the answer can be no too.