I ran into two articles this week on which I would like to comment. Why do things not move faster in Enterprise IT is the common denominator in the two articles.
Sorry for my non-Dutch readers, the first article was posted in “IT-Executive” with the title “Automating IT is better than Outsourcing”. The second article is from “Business Insider” and carries the title “Our Obsession with Efficiency is Killing Innovation”. Let me put down a quote from each of them:
- Companies spend millions trying to integrate legacy systems and they keep running slow and unimaginable inefficient systems. On top of that, those systems do not reflect business processes and put a big strain on IT putting out fires.
- We are focused on the wrong metrics. Our universities are training entrepreneurs—and investors — to focus on fast and efficient return on capital investment. Efficiency innovations provide return on investment in 12-18 months. Empowering innovations take 5-10 years to yield a return.
That looks an awful lot like an ever spinning wheel with only two ways to stop it:
- Break out of it
- Don’t break out of it and die
Simple but true, in my opinion. I’m stuck in there as well, being both economist and IT Professional. But the second quote gives me a direction in which I was already heading. Establish long term relationships with customers, doing roadmap sessions and stop thinking in “quick wins” only. How I hate Quick Wins! But it’s a magic word…… and, it’s only a conversation. And conversations can be created.
Can we have both Quick Wins AND long term Wins! Of course we can! But in order for that happen we should start focusing on the latter and make sure we come up with significant spin-offs regarding the former. I call it future-driven projects and that is quite the opposite of how we normally run IT Projects, those are mostly passed based; we have an issue and it needs to be resolved, we have to get rid of that legacy system. Passed Based.
A major value of future-driven projects is that the likelihood of success is bigger. Let me explain that. Passed Based projects need agreement of all stakeholders and technical possibilities, and if there is one thing hard to get among IT people and decision makers it is agreement.
Projects then follow a very thin line to keep agreement (lengthy, inflexible Project Plans) in place, the agreement gets more important than the results, meaning al lot of paperwork full of agreement, meetings to re agree on the agreement, planning and re-planning. Actually, agreement is scope, and we tend to not manage scope (agreement) but only time and money. The only agreement left is time and money. And then that thin line breaks. IT projects do not have high success rates.
Future driven projects, however, only need alignment on a vision (or whatever word you would like to use here), of no more than two pages. The important word here is “Alignment” which is very distinct from “Agreement”. The next step is to plan backwards from that future to the present, getting things in place to fulfill that future. And the funny thing is, we all know how to do that, we all do it when we plan and book our holiday. We make sure everything is in place to be able to leave on the date set. Holiday planning has a very high success rate.
So, in the drawing we have a time line and the thinner blue lines indicate the uncertainty of the conditions but we are still heading in the right direction. We might end up somewhere between the two blue arrows. In the course of time we can adjust to the conditions whereas in passed based projects the conditions are always just constraints. If we know what has to be in place in 2016, we also know what has to be in place in 2015 to fulfill that. If we know what has to be in place in 2015 we also know what has to be in place in 2014, and so on. Planning back from the future to now, we know exactly what to do and what to start with. There is plenty of space to squeeze in some quick wins as well! No deadlines but milestones, which sounds much better from a motivational point of view.
Looking back at the first quote, the spending of millions, in this model we completely abandon the path of legacy compatibility because we only look at the future. Also, looking at the second quote, we create a future in which there is room for the so called empowering innovations. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!