By Branden R. Williams, CTO, Cyber Security Solutions, First Data
Technology issues come in a number of forms, any of which could quickly derail an initiative. If there is a common denominator, it is probably that the majority of IT projects end up going over budget and are delivered late. Often times IT projects are under scoped to get them approved.
Even when they are properly scoped, there can be issues along the way that cause delays. Finally, if users do not accept the technology and incorporate it seamlessly into their work it may be seen as a wasted investment. Design processes that don’t take the end user’s experience in mind are doomed to be shelved.
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I have found that IT projects bought in from all of the parties who will be impacted by the project tend to be more successful than those that are not. They also need to have realistic timelines and budget amounts that can be positively managed. When IT leaders have to adjust those arbitrarily to fit a timeline or a number to push it through approvals, bad things are bound to happen. Communication is the key in any IT endeavors.
Focus On Improving The Work Flow
IT spending as a direct correlation to revenue is a unicorn that practitioners and scholars have chased since the 1980s. For the most part, it’s not something that you can reliably do and pass the inspection of a diligent CFO. There have been exceptions in certain situations—for example in the DevOps movement of the last decade. In this case, IT spending along the lines of automation as well as treating the IT organization like a factory will prove to speed up the movement of work through the system. CIOs that focus on improving the flow of work through their systems will almost immediately start to generate positive ROI.
IT- a Key Player
IT is shown to be both a key player in the enablement of those areas as well as the detriment. We’ve all been in a situation where an IT system impeded business productivity, prevented growth, and stifled innovation. Part of what causes this to happen is the buildup of technical debt, or those things that we choose to do as a quick fix today that is never properly done tomorrow. Firms get into these situations because of poor IT leadership and usage of budget. The worst offenders typically have a revolving door in key leadership positions in the organization.
Focus on getting good people in the right positions and consistently providing leadership and management throughout the journey. Ensure alignment with corporate objectives and strategy and find ways to partner with your business counterparts to ensure you are meeting their objectives.
Ensure Proper Positioning of Solutions
There are a dozen IT vendors to solve every problem. I look for vendors who help me solve a business problem. This ensures that the solution is properly positioned to help the company as a whole. This helps you to find more strategic partners who will ensure your success and help to make you a better business partner to your colleagues. I also look for the standard things that we are all trained to focus on like lock-in, financial health, interoperability, reviews of their service, and of course, price.
IT- an Enabler
I expect that IT acts as an enabler and not a roadblock. Part of that has to come from IT, Infosec, and the business coming together on specific issues to understand how we can “get to yes,” and be the ones putting the “no in innovation.” I also expect that IT will embrace emerging technology such that they can become experts in how it is used, and how we can incorporate it into our business to create competitive advantage. What really matters is that whether know how to use the right technology at the right time to ensure durable competitive advantage.