Five Roadblocks to Faster

IT World Canada

As published in IT World Canada, April 30, 2008

How do you speed up your IT organization? Here are five things that may be standing in your way.

SEVERAL CLIENTS AND PROSPECTS HAVE SAID TO ME THAT THEY WANT TO SPEED UP THEIR IT ORGANIZATIONS. But speed doesn’t come easily, and that’s a message none of these organizations has been comfortable hearing. Here’s what stands in their way:

?A FOCUS ON BIG PROJECTS. In every case, the whole structure of the IT organization – from project offices to approval processes – is geared for large projects that last a year or longer. The projects are strictly linear, with business analysts interacting with architecture to produce reference solutions, then development experts converting that into designs, and then specifications being laid down. All this is good for getting a big effort right, but these steps slow down the work.

?HOSTILITY TOWARD NEW WAYS OF DOING THINGS. These IT organizations won’t invest in and experiment with new tools, approaches and methods until there is a project “worthy” of them. Meanwhile, no business client will take a chance on anything new. The result is that yesterday’s languages, tools and methods remain today’s, and likely tomorrow’s.

?SILENCE RATHER THAN DIALOGUE ON IT INVESTMENTS. When business people are left in the dark about IT’s existing portfolio, they can only wonder about the state of things. Without portfolio feedback, the business can’t judge whether to extend what it owns a little longer or to start again for the next decade. More often than not, the business defers to IT, and IT defers to what it already knows.

?THE BUSINESS SIDE’S COMMITMENT LEVEL. Not all the problems are in IT. In every one of these companies, the business does not make IT tech projects a priority. Decision-makers don’t come to meetings, and key issues aren’t worked out early. Far too often, core questions (e.g. What is a superior customer experience?) aren’t asked until late in the game. At project’s end, the business won’t participate in testing or invest in deployment support.

?CORPORATE STYLE. Corporate behavior influences what you can do. If your performance evaluation system is too rigid, or if you are required to plan (and then execute according to that plan) with nothing held back for change, your speed will be limited. Here, IT can push against the limits, but it’s hard to go any great distance past them.
— By Bruce A. Stewart