5. Break it down. “Multi-year, monolithic IT projects are a sure-fire recipe for failure,” says Michael Hugos, a former CIO of an $8 billion distribution cooperative and author of Building the Real-Time Enterprise: An Executive Briefing (John Wiley & Sons, 2004). “The key to success is breaking big projects into smaller, self-contained pieces that can be put into production within three to nine months.” The business side can see what it’s getting for its money -- and bail on the project if it fails to meet expectations.
Scenario 5: The IT department tied in knots
PwC’s Bloodworth says he was once called in to consult with a large, Midwest entertainment company where technology was viewed as a necessary evil, unconnected to the company’s core business. Even seemingly simple changes required huge lead times. The backlog on pending projects was enormous. Nothing ever got done, and IT was viewed as a dismal failure.
But Bloodworth discovered the fault lay not with the tech department but with how the company managed -- or rather, mismanaged -- projects. There was no process for approving projects, prioritizing them, or determining which projects were too old or marginal to pursue. “We found a portfolio hundreds of projects deep,” he says. “IT just focused its resources on whatever group shouted the loudest.”
How do you cut through the tangle of demands and make IT functional again?
1. Speak truth to power. “You need to have someone in the organization with the ability to take a step back and say, ‘This is out of control; we have a problem we need to fix,’” says Bloodworth. “If no one’s willing to step up, you may need to bring in an outside consultant who can tell the CEO, ‘We have a governance issue, and it starts with you.’”
2. Limit the number of decision makers. One of the first things PwC did was build an executive committee to approve IT projects, along with a second-tier steering committee for day-to-day management -- and made everyone accountable for cost. “Putting in a formal process really helped them,” Bloodworth says.
3. Analyze the portfolio. Scrap anything that’s old or not aligned with core business goals, then prioritize what’s left.
4. Elevate IT’s stature. IT has to be about more than just keeping all the systems glued together every night, says Scott Christian, a director in PwC’s IT Effectiveness practice. To create an environment where tech is viewed as vital to success, organizations must empower techies to be strategic thinkers and not just order takers. They may also need to parachute in an enlightened CIO who’s a businessperson first and a techie second.