Top 10? How about top 3?

The other day I was on a conference call where I was asked to give a list of the top 10 things that could improve on the implementation of IT.

My experience is that 10 is a lot of things for people to keep in mind, and maybe we can start with 3.  If you can take three items to improve on, focus on those and at least improve with one of them then you will have succeeded.  Life is complicated today by many distractions, many choices, many alternatives and endless demands for things for us to look at, try and do.  It is hard to shut it all out, so I believe that I have to focus on one or two things and work on those and improve and make that a part of my habits for at least a month and then move on to other things when those are entrenched.

Three key project management strategies that I discussed related to improving the implementation of IT were:

  1. Develop business operational structures or constructs
  2. Create shared common models for what is being delivered
  3. Communicate and build relationships before you need them

Business operation structures or constructs include business processes, business models whether diagrams or with words, that describe how the business operates and gets things done on a daily basis.  The scope of the constructs needs to include those activities in the business that include the project scope and just slightly wider.  These models are not IT models.  In fact they have aspects to them that IT does not predict.  Many methodologies and approaches make the mistake of using IT models and extending them into the business framework.  That makes it easier to create the technology part of the project because, but it will miss greater parts of the business because the technology models will be self serving and miss scope due to their focus on an IT structure rather than a business structure.  Business models need to be created around the lifecycles of how business operates to achieve the deliverables that are the core value in the marketplace.  The creation through to death or transition, of ideas, concepts, products and services is a different model than what IT needs to create a structured movement of data and process.  So I begin with an understanding of how the business operates and then once that is well established within a business context language, move to an understanding of how IT can deliver, and the creation of IT models, within this context.

Shared common models are diagrams or pictures which represent what is being built.  If there is no resource to create this then PM must do it themselves.  The PM must start by creating adraft, sharing anddiscussing it with those most close to the architecture, design and construction initially and then through various iterations, move it to a continually widening circle until the value is clear and understood and the teams can begin to relate to what has to be done.  I have found frequently that the teams around the table whether other business areas or external vendors, rarely represent the entire technical or business IT depth available at my disposal to help understand and create what needs to be delivered.  Therefore I need to serve up something that can be seen by the groups I don’t see, and I can receive the benefit of analysis and critical feedback from those I rarely meet or will never see at all.  It is the technical genius of a Susan who sits in a back room functionally reporting to a Joan that provides knowledge to a Bill who attends my project and brings data and models back and forth between the project team and the vendor’s or other business area’s team.  I need feedback from Bill, Joan and Susan to ensure what is being built, will deliver and provide the value that the customer needs, not just feedback from Bill.   Therefore I have to give him something he can share with the others.

Communications with key stakeholders are essential to breaking down barriers, getting their understanding and buy-in, and most of all getting their commitment so that when competing priorities arise, the project will receive the attention it needs to achieve the dates and value that is expected to be delivered.  Corporate and Public environments are very complicated today and there is rarely such thing as a dedicated resource.  Staff are expected to operate on multiple projects at the same time.  This means that at a certain point project priorities will compete with other projects and with operational urgencies.  It is critical to build that open lineof communication with all key stakeholders right from the beginning and especially in the beginning when conversations are comfortable, the goals are still feasible from everyone’s perspective and no roadblocks or show stoppers have raised their heads.  Open the lines of communication, discuss and document concerns and expectations, and evolve those critical relationships so that when you need to cash in your chips, call in a card, ask for that help, assistance or request a favor to provide resources or costs to get through a difficult period in the project, the stakeholders are there to support you because they trust you.

Those are 3 key aspects, and there are others, but the ability to create business operational constructs, create shared common models, and communicate and build relationships before you need them have gone a long way to helping me be successful when implementingIT projects.