10 Tips for Successfully Navigating a Transformational IT Project

Make sure there’s a real partnership commitment between IT and line of business management Make sure there’s a real partnership commitment between IT and line of business management

Understanding the challenges in the existing operating model, the potential threats from a changing competitive landscape, and being mindful of the underlying economics is something that must be done collaboratively between business unit management and their information technology counterparts.

And given the availability of solutions that would have been hard to conceive of just a few years ago thanks to the relentless march forward of technology consumerization, IT teams must be prepared to be facilitators, capable of sharing insights into future trends and solutions, so that joint decision making can unfold.

Therefore it is critical to form a partnership between business units and IT to enable transformational change.

Focus on the outcome, not the technology Focus on the outcome, not the technology

As IT organizations consider optimal ways to energize and support transformation efforts, they must remember that technology simply for the sake of technology is always a bad idea.

When it becomes time to consider big changes in operational models and the technologies that support them, it needs to be a coordinated effort where the potential gains that solutions can deliver are considered in light of their operational impact.

Define and refine the business processes first Define and refine the business processes first

According to a study by the Standish Group, issues with requirements definition and change management are responsible for more than 30 percent of the major IT project failures.

Getting business process changes clarified and documented early is critical. Complex workflows laden with business rules that are designed to ensure control, compliance and operational efficiency are core to financial service companies. The complexity embedded in insurance operations is legendary. Taking the time to thoughtfully and carefully design the targeted business models ahead of embarking on the technology deployment will pay significant dividends throughout the life of the effort.

Plan to manage cultural change Plan to manage cultural change

Positive behavioral changes will not take place independently and can’t be presumed to be a natural outcome of a technology deployment.

It isn’t a qualitative question of good or bad; every organization has its own cultural norms and response patterns. Knowing these ahead of an effort can positively shape and manage a transformation.

Exercise the governance model early and often Exercise the governance model early and often

Practice execution allows the “routine” to be handled with little energy or thought. The freed bandwidth becomes available to address unexpected events that deviate from the plan. Trial runs improve both sets of decisions.

Framing the “rules of the road” for an effort early, and allowing team members to use it to actively work issues, significantly improves ownership for an effort and decision velocity.

Build and maintain sponsorship Build and maintain sponsorship

Sponsorship requires effective decision making, crisp communication and a unified presence to keep program teams focused on the tasks at hand.

Taking the time and finding ways to build and maintain transformations will make all the difference between a successful initiative and one that fades infamously into the annals of corporate history.

Deliver results early and often Deliver results early and often

Attention spans for people and organizations can be surprisingly short; failing to keep delivery on a cadenced and visible track can create a form of organizational amnesia that’s hard to overcome.

Moving quickly while using targeted milestones to review results and implement appropriate course corrections can keep vitality in these initiatives. It also mitigates the potential for sponsorship fatigue to set in when an effort begins to seem defined more by promises than results.

Learn from history—don’t repeat it Learn from history—don’t repeat it

Artifacts from prior implementations may represent meaningful savings embedded in new business cases; a dose of technology archeology can help draw out potential headwinds that aren’t obvious before a project begins.

Stay on message Stay on message

Celebrating success early and often may seem simplistic, but it can be used in powerful ways to cement commitment to an effort and keep cross-functional teams focused on the path ahead.

But communication goes two ways. A powerful element of celebratory events is the opportunity to actively listen to team members. Augmenting other techniques, such as team surveys and skip-level meetings, can provide an invaluable perspective on the health and direction of an initiative.

Plan for the operational and financial implications up front Plan for the operational and financial implications up front

Technology and business organizations should anticipate the need to incorporate continuous improvement into the target state model. The future requires shorter product development times with greater levels of mass customization. It also needs to recognize that there will be ongoing upgrades and improvements in the underlying technology stack as well as a steady stream of ideas that can be enabled by modern and capable systems.

Focusing on the need to be ready for continuous improvement (for both business process and technology) when creating architectural designs can minimize the potential for new solutions to quickly become brittle or fragile environments in their own right.