Delivering successful IT projects: A decision making framework for CIOs

Thursday, June 13, 2019 - Adam Stirk

When your business identifies an opportunity for operational improvement, it’s time to work out how best to implement it. Technology delivers transformational change, improves efficiency and enhances business profit. But to secure maximum operational improvement, new digital transformation projects require robust planning.

Making the right decisions early on will set a course for added agility and the ability to work and scale faster. But what do you need to consider when deciding on the best way forward? We’ve worked with many growth companies across a variety of industries and observed common themes in every CIO’s decision-making framework.

Why Do People Start Digital Projects?

Whenever someone at your organisation runs into a brick wall - be it time-consuming manual interventions or paper-based processes that reduce operational visibility - technology often provides a way to get over it.

In order to ensure a successful project delivery, it’s important to be really clear on what success looks like from the start. Quite often, you'll get locked in to an objective at the beginning of a project so it needs to be right. Setting a soft statement like ‘we will be able to provide customers with a way to engage 24/7 around the world’ can give you scope to adjust your software solution while remaining on target for the business.

To decide on your objective, consider where your business is heading and ensure your software application will meet your business goals both in the short and long term.

It can be useful to take market trends into account but don’t be tempted to follow the market too closely. Too many businesses are not really innovating; they’re just letting other people innovate and then following. This doesn’t help organisations differentiate themselves. What will help your organisation stand out is creating something unique that fulfils your business’ long-term goals and direction. Through this you’ll get the best value from your IT investment.

It’s important to use data to inform your objective setting so that you aren’t swayed by conjecture and opinion. Whatever the project’s original objectives - be they financial, organisational, technical or a mix of all three - you’ll need to establish relevant targets. By setting clear KPIs at the start, you’ll be in a strong position to measure the project’s success at the end.

Once you have a coherent vision, you can roll out the objective from the top down. By giving everyone in your business a clear direction of travel you’ll be able to better communicate the change and get everyone on board.

Building the Right Team to Minimise Project Risk

Your team members are only as good as the projects they’ve been exposed to. And if this means they’ve had a narrow scope of experience, you might have a degree of risk within your team.

If your team’s understanding of technologies is outdated, this will impact the approach they want to take. This can often result in development teams wanting to use older solutions or alternatively, teams intending to use your new digital project to learn the latest technologies. This a major risk. Particularly when large sums of money and organisational reputation are at stake. 

Another issue with smaller teams is that mission-critical projects require more than technical resource. Ensure you have sufficient coverage across business analysts, product owners and project managers. And ensure everyone understands their role in the project: These roles will bridge the gap between the business and the IT team. And they’ll ensure the project takes into consideration all relevant business needs while driving it forward and restricting scope creep.

You need to find a balance between ramping up permanent staff for short term projects and introducing contract resource, who will take domain knowledge with them when they leave. There’s little point bringing in additional headcount to see a single project through to conclusion. Instead, many CIOs choose to bolster their internal team with an external software development company to fast-track their project while minimising risk. The best outsourced teams will also:

  • Work in partnership with your team and business, identifying and solving problems
  • Uncover innovative solutions to get your business ahead
  • Have the expertise to balance the introduction of new technologies with the integration of legacy technology to ensure stability
  • Recruit or upskill your existing team so they can manage the system going forward

Creating the Right Conditions for Delivery

Implementing a new system is one part of the process. Getting people to use it correctly and embed it as business-as-usual is something else.

Include people from relevant business areas early in the process to drive change and ensure the system is used. And, with a clear objective that explains your project’s ‘why’, you’ll enable effective internal communications to manage the change message. Bringing everyone on board with your vision and how it will benefit the business and their day to day working.

Another winning tactic is to engage product champions, one from each department, to help drive the change. They’ll be on hand to communicate, promote and answer questions around the change making it part of the way you do things rather than a top-down product push into the business.

Measuring the Impact

Digital technology can deliver significant operational change and innovation. And this has an impact on the people in your business. At Audacia, our projects are mainly delivered for companies experiencing growth, so the bespoke software solutions that we deliver transform processes with automation, driving efficiencies that free people up to focus on other priorities.

Which means your employees need to form part of your digital decision-making process. Once you understand the impact of your solution for your staff, you might decide to:

  • Arrange for people to be upskilled and redeployed
  • Hire in new people with additional skill sets
  • Employ more employees to cope with an expected upturn in business

As a strategic leader, you’ll also be looking ahead to the next aspect of the project. If your £100,000 investment added £1m to the bottom line, you’ll be seeking for additional opportunities to do more of the same.

Get your digital decision making right and you’ll reduce project risk, deliver business growth and have another success under your belt. With the good will of the CEO, you’ll have everything you need to launch your next major initiative. 

 

To find out more about delivering your own successful IT project, contact Audacia on 0113 398 4199 or at [email protected].

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