It’s the Business!

I am in technology project management, and technology has a habit of focusing more on the technology, and less on the business.  I developed and adage after a while in this business and it is that Information Technology thinks the project is done when the technology works, but business things the project is done when business works.  Often the two end-points are months if not years apart and sometimes the disparity is the difference between success and failure on a project. 

It is a message to IT.  The more closely the two end points are aligned the more successful the project will be.  The IT group when they are facilitating or managing a project really need to understand the IT project from a business perspective.  Yes we have heard that before.  But what does it actually mean?

Seeing the IT project from a business perspective, means defining the success points in terms of metrics the business can relate to, not the ones IT relates to.  For example instead of defining success as the point in time at which the system is installed and users can access it and enter data, define it in terms of a user being able to enter 25% more per day, than they could with the old system.  Maybe it is a 25% reduction in costs, measured in terms of effort for that day.  To explain this further, if I find after the first two weeks with a system that staff can get their required work done 6 hours per day on average instead of 8, then they can take on other things or do more per week, and therefore the business can get more done with less staff and so this is a reduction in cost due to a productivity increase.

When IT focuses on the business objectives instead of IT objectives you can feel a shift in your mind; ashift to a different emphasis and focus.  Just feel the shift when you compare the two objectives above.  To restate it, IT thinks the project is done and a success when staff are able to enter their data and save itin the new system, including providing for the ability of staff to bring up the new system, login, and enter their data, then save, and report on it. 

However Business thinks the project is done and a success when staff can get all their work done now in 6 hours instead of 8.  You can feel the shift.  What happens is that you start focusing on the context of the work environment of the staff.  You start to see IT as a part of an entire delivery not just as an entity by itself.  IT facilitates and enhances what the business needs to do.  It usually does not act on its own. 

Focusing on the successful business change that is needed forces the IT team to examine how technology fits into the workflow of the staff and that broadens the picture and in the case above may help IT understand better ways perhaps to do things like: authenticate staff, quicker logins, faster presentation of the screens the staff need to get to, shortcuts in the system for the most used functions, quick launch bars, quick checking and validation mechanisms, heuristics to see if work is all completed, and the list goes on. 

You can see how the mind turns to different solutions with a different focus.  In the same manner, IT needs to focus on Business success metrics and build the project success around that, and this in turn will help IT realize that it is the success of the business that makes IT projects successful.  It really is about the business.