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ECT News Community   »   E-Commerce Times Talkback   »   Re: Poor Execution Wrecking IT Strategies

Re: Poor Execution Wrecking IT Strategies
Posted by: James Middleton 2003-06-18 05:58:06
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Technology strategies often fail because of a breakdown in execution, but IT managers can correct this by applying the simple logic of risks and rewards, according to BMW IT strategist Daniel Lange. A structured decision-making process to minimise risk and avoid getting the blueprint wrong is essential, as is getting the overall IT strategy approved by the board and nailed down. "Then it is law and everyone in the enterprise has to abide by it," Lange said.

Re: Poor Execution Wrecking IT Strategies
Posted by: clintonj 2003-06-18 06:30:09 In reply to: James Middleton
The reality is that the larger the organisation, the more difficult to convey the message correctly. That fact has to be acknowledged.
More importantly, though, who needs to actually understand the strategy? Ordinary workers, tech staff, super users, IT Managers, Directors and at what level?
In more than a dozen years in business supporting roles my experience has demonstrated that the IT strategy comes down to a handful of things.
Cost, Benefits, Risk and Relevance.
Cost is the easy one, you know what you currently have and what it costs you. You supposedly know what the alternative will be and what it will cost you to own or run it.
Benefits are a little more vague, certainly those business processes that rely on solution x and are considered business critical are easy to box off, but the less clearly defined benefits associated with specific technologies are a problem, and when one looks at new business processes or processes that currently do not depend on technology then that adds a whole new dimension to the game and vagueness.
Often the business has a set of agendas that actually don't come down to whether the technology will improve or support the business process but rather who controls the business process. Automating or systemizing business processes lays them bare for their simplicity or complexity and that can be a political touch point that has nothing to do with technology at all but rather business politics. Do you cover this off in the strategy too?
Risks are even more nebulous when one starts to embark on renewal or automation program project or strategy, typical questions on availability, confidentiality, accuracy and comprehensiveness pervasiveness and global relevance etc often have no clear answers and of course all the HA and all the Security and all the complexity can be built and provided but the initiative might crash and burn when the scope becomes too onerous to define or the budget too weak to withstand the breadth.
Finally my thoughts are that relevance is grossly underestimated. Many strategy documents are well intentioned but often vague and ironically insufficiently technical, founded on the whim or sentiment of the strongest board or executive senior staff member and often don't actually have a solid technical foundation, let alone appropriate business direction.
The technical staff will go with the industry trends as their personal or departmental strategies, this protects their own personal marketability, the CIO will go with what will be the easiest to convince the business to buy into for his next budget negotiation, and Finance will agree to the initiatives and strategies that carry the most obvious ROI's. Logistics and operations people want the most effective solution, irrespective of whether it is old or new technology, and hope that someone else will foot the bill for it, irrespective of whether it meets other divisions' requirements or not.
The "one strategy for the business suits all" approach simply doesn't work. The consequence is that the back room boys tend to secretly get on with pursuing, deploying and refining deployments that have concealed characteristics but which on the face of it comply with the strategy. Occasionally they will push something in front of the business, get it relied upon and then raise it up as needing additional funding to be extended.
Finance continues to harp on about ROI's and benefit realisations and continues to produce gigabyte-sized linked spreadsheets, ignoring the fact that this in itself creates organisational disharmony, and the CIO continues to think that the strategy is relevant and appropriate because he managed to get the budget agreed.
It's la la land and the most plainspeak strategy documents will not actually solve the problem at a macro level.
IT and the IT function needs to be recognised as a board-level function that should operate with the same level of autonomy as any other business unit. Getting out from under the stifling wing of finance or administration has to be the first step.
IT managers also need to acknowledge that there are streams of initiatives within their departments. Things that are relevant to staff retention and interest, things that save money on the way we've always done things, things that will bring new functionality to the changing business. Those very streams also need to be flexible and adaptive and people need to be willing to admit when initiatives look like they should be canned even when they haven't fully unfurled.
Let's be more pragmatic and accept that execution of the strategy is not the problem it is the relative importance placed on IT within the business as a whole.
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