Back in my time, an IT solution implementation project was called “The Death March”. With my miserable experiences, I embellished the term to “The Slow Death March”- a start-stop-start trial by fire over one-two-three years. Having played both avatars of the ungodly union – user and implementer – I recall deep anxiety and an urgent desire to abscond, never to be found. Invariably, as an implementer I would be destroyed by the dreaded declaration “user acceptance is unlikely unless you revisit the scope” or, as a user, I would plead tearfully “try to understand, your excellent implementation resources in Australia are of no use to me – I just need adequate resources in Islamabad!”
Thankfully, people process and technology – the three stalwarts of a IT strategy – have matured, each benefiting from the other’s evolution. Besides, the expression “failure gives a perspective on success” has served IT projects well; we have learnt, albeit the hard way and at a cost both to user and implementer. Today, implementation roadmaps are less risk-prone thanks to technology that has replaced complex processes, and to people who have leveraged past experiences to template best practices in strategy and approach.
So, drawn from my decades long, heart-wrenching experience, here is an attempt at wisdom; What I Know for Sure about IT projects.
- Strategy: IT is a service function. Unless IT strategy aligns fully with business goals and objectives, it is wasteland. Be aware of the benefits that your project must drive and ask yourself at every juncture “Are we aligned?”.
- Sponsorship: Projects are like people; without scrutiny from the top, they don’t perform. Demand C-level sponsorship so that your project is not seen as an orphan which can be ignored by those whose participation is essential.
- Technology: Precise, comprehensive solution and product fit is essential. However, do not rely on technology entirely nor blame it for all ills. It is only one of several contributors to a project.
- Governance: The best plans go south unless the project is governed well, so invest in it. Be micro, be pedantic, be paranoid, insist and persist. In this case, more is more.
- Change Management: People and processes are levers for effective change management. Change can be painful so be sensitive to culture, readiness and previous experience while championing steadfast commitment to change.
- Preparation: Spend 80% of your time preparing so that you need only 20% for execution. Gap-fit, BPR, documentation, test and trial, timeline and milestone take a project from mediocre to good, and then to great.
- Team: Projects are to business as usual as war is to peace; skill, attitude and competence of a special nature are essential. Doing projects while holding your day job is death; project IS the day – and night – job.
- Communication: Internal before external, it is a step towards collective, collaborative success. Make all stakeholders part of your project by keeping them informed; conjure up your cheer leading squad and evangelize your vision.
- Quick Wins: Your applaud squad will scramble off the bandwagon if results are delayed or not clearly visible. Identify and achieve some quick wins, then publicize. It will rejuvenate your support.
- Measure: What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done. Establish crisply clear indicators of success against each objective. Remember, your own fear of brutal evaluation will be your downfall; lose the fear, welcome the judgment.
- “Thanda kar kay khao”: There is wisdom in that saying. Don’t declare victory too soon. Checklists are not just good, they are essential. Cross the Ts and dot the Is, and then re-check. Once sure, go ahead and shout from the rooftops.
Good luck, go forth and conquer – kill yourself but don’t die…..you will overcome!
About the Author: Samina Rizwan is the Senior Director and Domain Leader for Big Data and Analytics, MEA at Oracle Corporation