I've just finished reading an excellent book on achieving value from IT projects, The Information Paradox: Realizing the Business Benefits of Information Technology
, by John Thorp and the Fujitsu Consulting's Center for Strategic Leadership.
Thorp and company claim that today's IT projects are evolving more and more from simple automation efforts to complex "information" initiatives, and even further---to complete business transformation initiatives. This calls for a different approach and requires IT and Business collaboration.
As the book points out, the classic "let's buy a product and assume it comes with automatic benefits" approach doesn't work in today's more complex arena (and in fact it probably never did). In a complex business transformation initiative, trying to assume that an IT project in isolation will deliver value is wishful thinking.
The book also points out the four critical dimensions of complexity, which it says are blind spots in traditional thinking:
1) Linkage - to other related initiatives and to business strategy
2) Reach - those areas of organizational structure or supply chain processes that may be impacted by the change, or that need revisiting in order to bring about the benefits
3) People- those affected by the change and/or that need to be engaged (i.e. proactive change leadership and stakeholder analysis)
4) Time - the time it takes to manage the overall initiative, including the above dimensions, to fully realize the benefits (most companies grossly underestimate this)
Unfortunately, many IT projects just focus on on-time and on-budget delivery (resulting in a situation that the book describes as, "the operation was successful but the patient died"). Thorp and company refer to this as "investment myopia."
Instead, a committment to business value, ongoing process improvements, frequent iterations of delivery, and better project selection techniques are key. Most of all, we need to be aware of the blind spots mentioned above.
The book goes on to describe how a system of program management, portfolio management, and governance, with a focus on benefits realization, can bring about results. It also cautions about the dangers of treating selections as a one-time annual event, making selections in isolation (instead of in the context of investment programs), and not looking at all aspects of value (i.e. going beyond simple financial measures).
I highly recommend the book for those struggling with determining the value of IT, or trying to bring about collaborative change in their organizations. If you look at any major successful transformation, it was brought about by a marriage of technology, business process, and organizational change, and with full backing from senior management. This book can go a long way toward helping make this happen.
Labels: awareness, business-process, business-results, business-strategy, change-management, collaboration, critical-chain, events, governance, information-technology, it-governance, it-project, it-strategy, leadership, people, portfolio-managment, program-management, results, selection, value, value-management