Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 7

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.

In the “The Seven Change Disciplines” chapter, Bob and Dave discuss the seven disciplines organizations need to master to make the intentional change both real and sustained.

Leadership: Leadership is the art of getting others to follow the leader’s vision.

Business Design: Business design is about creating a concrete answer that can realize the leader’s vision. The design should be complete enough to articulate the vision in the terms where everyone involved can understand both the change itself and their role in it.

Technical Architecture Management: Technical architecture establishes the design and engineering guidelines needed so that the collection of applications, data repositories, and underlying infrastructure assemble logically and efficiently. The goal of technical architecture is to support the organization’s processes and practices.

Application Development / Application Integration and Configuration: The key point to remember is this. When it comes to achieving intentional business changes, the goal of IT is to avoid being the bottleneck.

Organizational Change Management: It would be wrong to assume people naturally resist change – people naturally resist change they expect will be bad for them. As a leader of the organization and to the extent possible, the leader should design every business change, so it leaves employees better off than they were before the change happened.

Implementation Logistics: Start every business change implementation with a well-chosen pilot. The pilot affects relatively few people but otherwise includes most of the complexity of the actual rollout.

Project Management: Projects are how change happens, so a solid project management discipline must be part of any effort that manages an intentional business change.

To make it all work, Bob and Dave believed that mastery in isolation is not enough. The seven disciplines must come together as an integrated whole, whose practitioners actively collaborate to make intentional change happen.

So, what can be done to address “The Seven Change Disciplines” opportunities and challenges? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Seven. I highly recommend the book.

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 6

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.

In the “IT in the Lead” chapter, Bob and Dave discuss why it is important for IT to resume its leadership role and how it can contribute.

Before IT can play a strategic, leadership role in the enterprise, it must have earned the confidence from the business units. IT earns the confidence of its business unit partners by consistently delivering its promises.

The SWOT analysis—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—is a useful strategic planning framework, but we should be doing it backward. Until the organizational leaders recognize the external threats and opportunities facing the business, they have no context for evaluating the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Most external threats and opportunities are the result of innovations in information technology. As a result, IT is the logical home for analyzing those SWOT issues and planning what to do about them.

By playing the customer-supplier relationship, it makes it difficult for IT to be a collaborator in designing and achieving business change. It is time for IT to drive business changes because information technology has become a mandatory element of many digitization and transformation strategies.

Strategic implementation projects should be incorporated into the project master schedule and managed through the business-change governance process. As the CIO, it is critically important to know how to answer the CEO’s questions regarding IT-driven business threats and opportunities.

So, what can be done to address “IT in the Lead” opportunities and challenges? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Six. I highly recommend the book.

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 5

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.

In the “Business-Change Governance” chapter, Bob and Dave discuss the importance of establishing a business-change governance practice and process.

To be effective, the change governance body should be composed of people who see themselves as leaders of the whole organization and not just representatives of one of its silos. In other words, the governance body members should see their mission to be promoting the “great good,” rather than simply defending their organization’s territories.

Investments in business change should benefit one of the “four goods.” These are the four business improvements that matter: increased revenue, decreased costs, better risk management, and improvements in accomplishing the organization’s mission.

The business-change governance body should be devoted to helping good ideas succeed. It is still important to screen out ideas that are not worthwhile, but that is a much more secondary goal.

Business-change governance reviews should have only two possible outcomes. Project proposals should be either scheduled or rejected. If a project is not important enough to be placed on the master schedule, it should be considered rejected.

The Do-It-Yourself business-change efforts via information technology (or Shadow IT) used to be preventable but not anymore. With the advent of cloud and SaaS, shadow IT is an indication that the organization needs a business-change governance process. If a shadow IT effort was needed for good business reasons, the governance body should facilitate those efforts. Effective governance can turn shadow IT into “illuminated IT,” thus greatly increasing the organization’s change bandwidth.

So, what can be done to address “Business-Change Governance” opportunities and challenges? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Five. I highly recommend the book.

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 4

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.

In the “BusOps” chapter, Bob and Dave discussed the role of IT operations in making the intentional business change.

We often think of IT operations as a service provider to internal business customers. That is an outdated concept. The practice of the negotiated service level agreements (SLAs) between IT operations and its internal customers is counter-productive for two reasons.

First, the technical SLAs are pointless because we live in a 24×7 world where the business is always operating somewhere in a time zone. The days of computer systems going down are over. Amazon and Google do not go down, and that sort of operational style is now considered a norm.

Second, the service-related SLAs are also outdated because internally facing SLAs cannot be enforced like a legal contract. The organization still needs to measure its operational effectiveness, but it should be done with carefully designed service performance metrics, not SLAs.

The concept of DevOps in IT is a good starting point, but we should not stop there. Business operations and IT operations have a great deal in common these days because we live in a technology-enabled business environment.

Going “digital” is a natural way of doing business because conducting business with technology is no longer optional. As a result, Business and IT operations are inextricably linked. We now live in a “BusOps” environment. The integration between Business and IT is a new way of going forward.

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

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 3

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.

In the “Fixing Agile” chapter, Bob and Dave discussed the advantages and challenges for adapting the Agile methodology for building our IT solutions.

The best way to adopt Agile is to treat it as a mindset rather than simply a set of techniques. Practicing Agile requires us to establish and maintain a direct and iterative developer-to-user interaction. Delivering incremental deliverables and tangible results will further increase Agile’s chance for success.

The bigger the change, the higher the chance of something will not go as planned. Most multiyear projects fail in part due to their complexity. The incremental approach of Agile can help us make better planning decisions for the larger business change we hope to undertake.

Agile may be defined as a software product delivery methodology, but we can leverage Agile to do more. If there is no such thing as an IT project and only intentional business change, we should find ways to adapt Agile for facilitating business changes. Enhancing Agile for such effort will involve delivering business change in tandem with COTS/SaaS implementations as well as synchronizing Agile with strategic planning.

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

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 2

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.

In “The New Business/IT Conversation” chapter, Bob and Dave outlined three types of business change that can benefit from better information technology. They are 1) business function optimization, 2) experience engineering, and 3) decision support.

Business function optimization is about getting the work done and done better. Experience engineering is about improving the experience everyone has when getting the work done. Decision support is about helping decision-makers make more effective decisions. Facilitating and making these types of business change happen should be the standard of competence for all IT organizations.

For IT, the question we used to ask was, what does the business want the software/system to do? The new question IT should be asking is how the business wants to do its work differently and better?

Business processes (how the product/service gets put together) and practices (the organization’s knowledge and experience) are different. They are the two poles of the continuum of how the organization gets its work done. IT should help a business figure out where on the continuum a specific business function should be placed to better design a system that can support it.

IT can help businesses better design their function only after understanding the input and output required by the business. The input and output are further influenced by six optimization factors: fixed cost, incremental cost, cycle time, throughput, quality, and excellence. It is not possible to optimize them all because there are constraints and trade-offs.

Designing external customer or internal user experience is complicated. Bob and Dave suggested IT start by setting this goal: “make their experience as un-irritating as possible.”

Finally, designing a decision support system is pointless until the organization adopts a culture of honest inquiry. Decision support systems are valuable only to the extent they reinforce this culture.

So, what can be done to address the new business/IT conversation? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Two. I highly recommend the book.

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.

Communication Plan

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

A communication plan is the planned approach to deliver information to the stakeholders. The information communicated by the plan should help to bring an accurate reduction in uncertainty.

Bob recommended that the following elements should be addressed in the formal plan.

  • Triggering Event: This is the matter that is driving the need to communicate, whether it is a project milestone or simply the passage of time.
  • Audience: The individual or stakeholder group that is the target of communication.
  • Key Issues: The WIIFM factor (“What’s In It For Me”) or whatever we think each stakeholder will care enough to listen or to act.
  • Desired Outcomes: Form follows function – bottom line up front.
  • Document/Meeting/Agenda Topic: If it is an e-mail, it is the Subject. If it is a report, it is the Title. If it is for a meeting, it is what we would call it on the appointment calendar.
  • Vehicle: The communications medium we will use for each stakeholder.
  • Messages: The key, take-away messages we will deliver to each stakeholder.
  • Assignee: Spell out who is responsible for delivering the communication.
  • Date planned: When we want the communication to happen.
  • Actual date: The date when the communication happens.

When we are trying to change an organization, we will be under constant stress. The stress and fear will likely result in people to communicate less. The best way to fight this lack of communication is to include communication tasks in the project plan.

Without communication, the other six components of business change management (Stakeholder Analysis, Involvement Plan, Metrics Plan, Structure Plan, and Culture Change Plan) will not make much difference at all.