Easy to remember, difficult to accomplish. But isn’t this the goal of any well-run organization? What better way to deliver on the value proposition with your customer base (internal or external) than executing on those projects that mean the most to the business? The direct benefit is the elevation of your business partners’ efficiencies where they need it the most. I used to jokingly say to clients that by automating their bad or inefficient processes they will be able to make mistakes much faster. Like most jokes the best ones have some element of truth in them. This was my subtle way of asking them to consider first, then react. React not by making poor processes faster, but by evaluating which processes are important. In a word, prioritize.
The first step is to define which processes are important to the health, value and structural integrity of the organization. Why spend money on processes that are not important and/or not aligned to the strategic direction of your company or business unit? A favorite example of mine is pushing processes to cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. While my company leverages web-based SaaS options for almost everything from email to payroll, many companies that have chosen this path solely for technology reasons. Did their business partners see issues with their old platform? Are the outsourced functions important enough to justify the investment and disruption this change brings? Often the answer is no. Of course there can be compelling reasons to move: being on a “burning platform” caused by eliminated or reduced support or the phase-out of a product, but when the IT leadership seeks to introduce a new technology and there is no clear benefit, the business is often left wondering why it is happening.
How Well Do You Know Your Customer?
How do you know what you are doing is important to your business partner and that it supports their intended direction? How do you align the investment to your corporate strategy? How many times have you and/or someone from your organization asked these questions?
While managing part of the IT organization for a major pharmaceutical company, every year we gathered people from all over the world to meet and discuss strategy for the coming year. As we were working through the process, I asked, “How do we know that our initiatives are matched to the current business processes. I spent the next ten minutes on the receiving end of a lecture about the significant time and money was had already been invested documenting the processes. But I still had one more question to ask: “When was this done?” The response: “Three years ago”. I was more than a little shocked by the answer. How many changes have you experienced in the past three years within your company? Three years is an eternity, even in a company that is slow to adopt change. This reinforced in my mind one of the fundamental and too often overlooked issues: when the IT perception of what the business needs are and the business partners’ view of what the business needs are are not in alignment and no one really seems to notice.
I have seen this scenario repeated in varying degrees dozens of times since. Fixing the disconnect is tough, but not as tough as everyone might think. Even the best C-level suite is challenged to develop solid alignment between technology and business needs. Where do you go to discover the real issues? The best sources are found in middle management and with the people who actually use the technology to complete the work. We at P5 Associates have developed an approach to facilitation resulting in candid, relevant feedback by conducting confidential conversations via structured interviews. We use simple tools to elicit and rank the perceived value of the technologies and services delivered. Shared feedback is anonymous and responses are cataloged. We ask users about their challenges, how they were trained, how well represented they feel in major initiatives, how past initiatives went, and most importantly, we ask them to rank their business priorities and how well those priorities are being accomplished with their current technologies and processes.
Actionable Results = Realization of Value
Once data is collected, we develop graphic representations of collected stakeholder feedback to represent the results. These include how the current state is viewed, what the optimal state should look like, and the stakeholders’ evaluation of how important each function is to their success and the success of their organization. Trends and data groupings indicate general perceived value and consensus on future needs. Pulling independent responses together and showing groupings provides a basis for better understanding the defined needs. Evaluating the consolidated responses enables a better understanding of business needs and the ability to identify projects that will most provide the most positive impact for your enterprise. This is the path to realization of potential value.
This process has served many clients well and brought an actionable conversation to the table. The value is realized when the alignment of IT with the business partners has happened and by making sure all levels of stakeholders are considered in the process. In this way, opportunities are properly prioritized and valuable resources are focused on work that makes a positive difference. This alignment also makes it easier to avoid the non-productive scenario where the “control” over how IT budget and resources are to be invested is disputed because of differing opinions on what is most important.
Of course, other factors also play a part, such as cost, risk and complexity, but the P5 approach fills in the vital missing piece of business value. Typically, the funding for projects ends up largely in the political arena but what better business case to negotiate from than one that speaks to and defines the needs of the business?
This article summarizes one of our key P5 process offerings for portfolio optimization. A typical P5 Onsite Assessment includes a period of time spent onsite with stakeholders to gather information followed by the processing and reporting of results. The approach is customized to meet the needs of your organization to yield actionable plans by getting to root cause issues, not just symptoms. For more information please click here.
P5 Webinars Coming Soon!
Organizational impact and resistance to change is risky, yet predictable and manageable. P5 Associates is pleased to announce that we will be conducting a series of free Webinars on this topic as well as three other concepts related to managing technology and process-driven change. These sessions will present methods and processes for assessing key factors that cause or contribute to project failure.
For Webinar details and registration, go to www.p5assoc.com/p5-webinar-series.
P5 Associates is a management consulting and services company with an emphasis on the people side of technology and the changes driven by IT projects and process change. We have developed several unique ways of viewing and analyzing our clients’ organizations and bring real understanding, actionable plans and results to any organization. We offer services ranging from Strategic Planning, Project and Program Management, Project Rescue, Business Analysis/Process Optimization and Professional Placement.