Does Business Change Matter?
If we are to ask the question during IT development programmes “Does Business Change matter? the straightforward answer to this question is “undoubtedly yes!”
IT Strategies are planned and introduced, yet often changes are not managed in ways that deliver the anticipated business benefits and maximise the intended value of the investment.
IT changes can be initiated by the IT Department (for example if hardware and software is deemed to be past its shelf life), or driven by strategic, policy or operational requirements specified by the business (including e-commerce, better data sharing, etc.).
Figure 1: An illustration of which part of the organisation can initiate IT change
Irrespective of where the change is initiated, the other party and all other stakeholders involved must understand the drivers for changes, be fully engaged with them, be aligned organisationally to achieve well defined business outcomes and be in a state of optimal business readiness to implement, accept and fully exploit IT solutions.
A planned and regular system of Communications, Awareness, Education and Training that engages all audiences, from senior stakeholders to end users of new IT systems is essential, if we are to optimise engagement with, encourage an appetite for, and enable high performance usage of the new IT.
From Project Initiation to Project Closure and embedded into live running, it is essential for there to be a clear, unambiguous focus on the business drivers for IS/IT improvement and a real concentrated and continuous focus on identifying, managing and realising the business benefits. The Return on Investment period identified in the business case (there should be one!) may of course be substantial and measured in years, if not decades.
I could go on at length about the extensive range of failings that are typical in many organisations and their IT implementation, including misalignment of Business Strategy and IS/IT Strategy; and the lack of robustness in identifying and profiling business benefits.
Instead I will, in this article, focus on some of the things that should happen. Here are a couple of sources of widely accepted wisdom:
In 2006 the National Audit Office published a key report “Delivering successful IT-enabled Business Change.” In this report three recurring principles were identified that contribute to success:
- The level of engagement by senior decision makers.
- The organisation’s ability to act as an “intelligent client” by ensuring they understand what it is they are setting out to do and have the skills to manage both suppliers and the change process.
- Having a clear understanding from the outset of the potential benefits of the change and putting mechanisms in place to determine whether these have been achieved and optimised.
In Spring 2013, Lord Browne delivered a report: “Getting a Grip: How to improve major project execution and control in Government”, in which he was highly critical of major project performance and the incidence of failure or not fully delivering.
Details are in the reports themselves and can be applied to IT and non-IT projects and programmes alike. Here are a few pointers:
- A project that starts poorly never improves. Poor standards at project initiation become the highest standards the project will ever achieve
- Stages of projects must be clearly defined and act as approval to proceed. Delays are often more acceptable than implementing a flawed project
- There needs to be thoroughness and robustness in designing and managing the business change
- There must be a robust risk management process so that any risks to the IT solution are managed and mitigated
- The importance of creating constructive relationships with IT suppliers must be recognised and these relationships delivered
- Benefits realisation for IT delivery does not finish on completion of the project or programme. To generate the return on investment identified in a robust business case, benefits must be optimised throughout the project and in live running operations following project closure.
What Does This Mean For My Organisation?
Please take heed of these tips (and the many others that go with them). With awareness of these and the many poor practices that exist and in the hope that current and future IT implementations learn good practices from them, I request you to consider:
- “What does this mean for my organisation?”
- “Do we manage IT enabled change well or badly?”
- “What do we need to improve?”
A one size fits all model will never work. Organisations differ massively in terms of their size and structure, their culture, strategies and processes. Thorough assessments of capability maturity, complexity of projects and programmes and ability to deliver IT strategies must be made. With subsequent approaches tailored to each individual organisation that gives them the greatest opportunity to realise the greatest benefits and maximise the IT investment.
Lord Browne advised that “poorly started projects never improve”. So please do make sure you start your projects and programmes well and on the front foot.
Investing some time and energy into making sure the capability to deliver is in place from the outset will serve you well in optimising the business benefits you expect from the new IT.
About The Author
Phillip Parramore MBA, MInst.LM Business Growth Advisor
Phil has thirty years’ experience of delivering solutions into complex environments, primarily in Central Government. Following a ten year career in DHSS Operations, Phil delivered change management solutions across a wide range of operational, consultancy and major projects and policy roles, including many associated with people performance and people change.
Phil is an experienced mentor and PRINCE2 Project Management Practitioner and these days owns GuideDotYou Change Solutions, a specialist Business Growth Advisory Service.