There’s a change happening in business, and as someone with a background in Information Technology projects, I feel it’s certainly a very welcome one.
IT is coming out of the shadows and being integrated as a true strategic business partner, according to a list of the top 10 adaptive leadership trends for this year.
But what does this mean for project leaders?
IT underpins your business strategy – and depending on your business, it might drive your strategy. If you are an IT person, keep reading too: this trend changes how you should be involved with projects and if you aren’t invited to the table, lobby for your place, because it really will make a difference to the success of your business.
Involve IT Early
Critically, the big change for project leaders is to make sure that IT has a seat at the table as early as possible. I speak to a lot of project managers and I heard about one large, strategic project that was costed out and the business case prepared. The decision was taken to go ahead on that basis. Then the IT team were consulted and the company realised the IT costs in the business case were not adequate to cover all the work involved. As they hadn’t involved the team at the strategic decision-making step, they weren’t aware of the intricacies of how their strategy could actually be delivered.
The technical costs, in this case, didn’t wipe out the benefits of doing the project, but you could imagine a situation where they would. Not involving IT early enough could turn out to be a costly mistake.
Of course, for some businesses, IT might be the strategy. Technology improvements, like digital solutions, could shape the direction of travel for your business, fundamentally changing the types of projects you choose to invest in. You won’t know what tech can do for you unless you give IT a seat at the table and involve in them in the strategic discussions.
It’s quite likely that the experts in IT projects can help your business leaders come up with innovative and cost-effective ways to deliver your vision.
Involve Delivery Teams
If you are building a software app, your Scrum team will have some very technical people in it. But if you are building a new office, perhaps your core team will be the construction experts, designers, architects, a representative from the customer team who will use the new office when it’s finished. Where does IT fit in that? Are they simply the people who turn up at the end and put computers on desks, or are they an integral part of the team?
Technology affects so many aspects of all our projects these days. From the security system that lets people into the office, telephony, CCTV, smart meters for utilities… The impact of IT solutions is felt throughout our built environment and beyond. I’m aware of one project where the network engineers were not adequately consulted at the outset, a building was refurbished, and then the beautiful new plasterwork was chipped away because there weren’t enough network points to plug-in all the equipment. You can always do remedial work like this, but project leaders know: making changes at a late stage in the project costs more and generally has a negative impact on the team. Who wants to spend time decorating a room only to find that they’ve got to do it again when extra cabling has been installed?
Get an IT representative on your project team as early as you can. Let them tell you that they don’t need to be involved rather than making the decision for them.
Involve Operational Teams
As well as the technical project teams, there is another area of IT that is often overlooked. Operational teams are those people who answer phones on the help desk and resolve user queries. They keep the lights on, doing patches and updates and generally making sure that you never need to think about technology because everything just works.
In reality, they can only make things work if they know what those things are. That means they also need to be involved in the project as early as possible. It’s far easier to support a new system if you have been involved in the discussions about system design and you know why it works like that (even if you don’t take part in the building). Knowing the history, context and background for the project makes for an easier handover.
Project managers like easy handovers because it means they can transition away from the project more quickly. They don’t like situations – and I speak for myself here – where we’re stuck answering questions for months after the project because no one else knows how the thing works.
The good news is that an easy handover is within our power: all we have to do is make sure that the people receiving the handover get a good one. And that means starting it early enough for them to feel like they have a good understanding of what the product is and what supporting it really involves.
Don’t ever worry about asking someone to be involved too early. You know what? They will tell you. Everyone is busy and no one has the time to go to meetings or take part in a project where they are not required. If they don’t think it’s relevant to be involved at this point, they’ll let you know. Ask when they do want to be involved and get them back on the project then. You can always keep them copied into meeting minutes or give them a ring if something comes up that you think they should be aware of.
If we acknowledge that IT has gone from a behind-the-scenes department to the driving force of businesses harnessing technology for change, then project leaders need to know how best to incorporate this into their thinking at all levels. From designing business cases with the IT costs and implications thought through, to the operational involvement of people who will manage the solution once it’s delivered, IT teams play a crucial part in helping businesses achieve their strategy.
Adaptive, inclusive thinking helps leaders across the business scale to meet demand. How are you doing this in your business? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx with your tips for involving the right people in projects.