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Cutting complexity in tech transformations

Pankaj Chitkara | June 12, 2014
There may be no better-known adage about IT than this: more IT programs fail than succeed. Although technology projects begin with good intentions they're often late, over budget, and haven't provided what is required.

This framework for analysing business needs is only a first step in minimising complexity. To ensure success, CIOs must also do the following things.

Introduce strong governance

Every stakeholder requesting a change will claim that the capabilities his or her business unit needs are core to the business. Strong governance will help validate each claim and challenge it, if necessary.

One financial services firm policed the project scope by making sure all stakeholders signed off on it before going any further. Beyond this, the governance committee, comprising of CFO, CIO and other business executives had to approve all change requests.

Maintain the scope of a program

IT must put into effect measurable targets for both standard¬isation and customisation, along with business rules that discour¬age unique requests. These can be enforced through chargebacks, traffic lights and trend graphs to track the level of standardisation and customisation against the targets.

Implement systems using a phased approach

One way to avoid IT "black swans" is to break big projects into ones of limited size, complexity and duration and develop contingency plans to deal with unavoidable risks

Convince business users

Getting buy-in from business users is imperative to making this framework work. To do so, IT must work closely with business to understand the nature of core process, the reason for implementing them within the system and to identify opportunities for simplification.

For non-core capabilities, a much more resolute stand should be adopted to drive home the value of standardisation to all end-users.

IT transformations are notoriously prone to failure and one of the root causes of this is complexity. The solution to complexity is developing a clear understanding of the business strategies and goals the new system is intended to support.

This is not easy but IT and other executives can work together to ensure the program's scope is limited to just core the capabilities required on day 1 and deploying only those in the system to deliver value.

Everything else can be delivered as part of future enhancements or outside of the system.


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