Recently a friend asked me to review their IT contract and an implementation of a big knowledge management system that was going off the rails. The relationship with a well-known IT contractor was ten years old. The implementation of the knowledge management system was new, big for them, and not going well at all. Exasperated, my friend asked, “Why can’t technical people do the most basic things? We have no idea what is going on and as a result, we’re questioning both contracts and the technology we chose. What a mess.”
She’s not alone. It is a mess. It used to make sense for IT people to run IT projects. That is the only way IT projects got done in the past. The very thought of a big technical project sends most people to the loo. Most everyone on the planet has at least one horror story about how technology made their lives more difficult than it was worth. Many people have a kind of residual PTSD about hiring technology companies, making decisions, taking leaps.
If this is how it used to be, though – how should it be instead?
My friends question answers that question. IT contracts should be negotiated by strategic thinkers. Not IT people. IT implementations should be managed by user-centered, business leaders. Not IT people.
By putting IT project controls with the people on the other side of the curtain you immediately feel justified in asking for what you truly deserve; consistent communication, clarity, timelines and traditional project management processes. Change orders; explained and negotiated. Delays anticipated and understood. Options and solutions deciphered and clarified.
Too often I see organizations spend a lot of deal of time clarifying needs, finding providers, and reviewing proposals but then turning the process over and hoping for the best.
Successful project implementations demand the following:
1) Formal alignment of strategic vision to ensure technical team understands business goals
2) User personas and profiles to clarify needs regarding user-centered approaches
3) Clear parameters to define change orders and scope
4) Regular status reporting and release scheduling that leaves nothing to doubt
5) Consistent and formal risk assessment at decision points and integration points
6) Documentation and training for anything left behind
Traditional IT people are under a lot of pressure to make their business operations more flexible and cloud-friendly. These changes are putting pressure on their business models and forcing changes many are reticent to embrace. This process is just one more in the vein of disruption all over the enterprise. It’s perfectly acceptable to expect clear business involvement, process and constant communication from your IT vendor.