Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 1

In the book, There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project: A Handbook for Intentional Business Change, Bob Lewis and co-author Dave Kaiser analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about IT and business management.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

The whole point of the book is that our approach for implementing and managing information technology projects has been wrong. There is no such thing as an IT project because what we are trying to do is to achieve an intentional business change with the help of information technology.

When we try to achieve business transformation or change via an IT project mentality, we often set ourselves up for disengaged stakeholders, low return from the investment, and, more often than we like to admit, outright failures. When organizations implement IT projects, we create a situation where IT and the business can point the finger at the other and give themselves an excuse for anything that can go wrong.

The first thing to do in changing the IT project mentality is to change the organizational culture.

Culture can be explained as “how we do things around here.” Culture is the combination of our attitudes, shared knowledge, expectations, and values expressed in a common but specialized vocabulary.

Culture can also be expressed in terms of the employees’ learned behaviors in response to their environment. The standard operating procedures do not adequately articulate the organization’s culture; however, culture is the unofficial policy manual.

The culture change of No-IT-Project cannot be done via proclamation but rather with influence. The culture’s influence also flows from the top down the organization. For the leader to change her organization’s culture, she must lead by example.

Because culture defines “how we do things around here,” successful, intentional business changes can only come from a shared focus on the desired business change. If the organization’s culture is to treat business changes as departmental projects, the No-IT-Project movement is unlikely to take hold.

Because many organizations view the IT and business relationship as technology supplier vs. internal customers, it is very difficult to build a closely collaborative relationship on a transaction-oriented foundation. The customer-supplier relationship encourages silo-like thinking and might be the biggest barrier for moving towards the No-IT-Project and intentional business change approach.

So what can be done to address the culture obstacles? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter One. I highly recommend the book.