We've all been there. Trapped on a plane, heading home — only to be diverted to another airport. The mind races head — what to do? Caught in this situation our world view narrows to focus on one singular objective: how to get home. Mid-course, the options are few — take a bus, rent a car, book a room, or take a later flight. Once home, rested and refreshed, the memory fades, but a lingering question remains: What should I do differently next time?
We've all been through the IT equivalent of the diverted flight. Like air travel, IT projects deliver too little, too late, for too much. (Share your views about working with IT by participating in this survey.) Smart "IT travelers" know how to increase the likelihood of getting to their destination, on time and on budget, provided that they keep a few principles in mind.
1. Choose your destination wisely. Foster organizational support by focusing your IT-enabled initiative to support theenterprise's business strategy. Scope it to add tangible valueto the business and to the people on the front lines who buy products and services, or interact with those who do.
2. Anticipate delays. IT-enabled projects are difficult. And they cost too much. Like the picturesque beach in Fiji, it's easy to imagine the techno-perfect-world you'd like to live in, but hard — and expensive — to get there. Be sure to make the expense worthwhile by anticipating delays and planning for them.
3. Plan your itinerary. Reduce the risk of project failure by 50% by defining clear business objectives, securing executive support, and arranging for sufficient involvement by subject matter experts.
4. Don't "overpack." When you're flying, you probably travel light — and don't check anything you can't live without. The same philosophy holds here — focus on the practical ("I absolutely need my laptop/prescriptions/passport"), not the possible ("It sure would be nice to bring these beach chairs/snow shoes/kayaks").
5. Explore — and learn. The power of IT comes from changing the way people think, behave and interact. Learn what happens when field agents are given real-time access to information, what franchisees do when given web tools to procure parts, and how consumer participate in promotions when they are accessible via their cell phones. Don't automate existing processes, but redesign from an extended enterprise perspective. If you are going to replace or upgrade an existing system, scope it so that it delivers an important capability that was not in place before.
6. Play the upgrade game. Hold out for the right resources — not necessarily the available ones. Wait to start your project until you have a seasoned project manager supported by a small team of full-time people.
7. Ask nicely. Make sure that you foster an environment of open and honest communication so that the project team is comfortable discussing what could cause the project to go off course. Adopt Paul Glen's perspective on IT-enabled projects. In his book, Leading Geeks, he counsels, "The point here is not that geeks are incompetent or that geekwork is hopeless, but that creativity and innovation are difficult to do" and "if you expect every project to be completed on schedule and on budget, you're likely to be constantly disappointed."
8. Don't stay too long in one place... Break large projects up into smaller pieces or stages, with each stage delivering value within 3-6 months. By delivering value along the way, you will capture and nurture precious organizational mindshare that will help ensure success.
9. ...But don't travel too quickly, either. Leverage existing technology by fully understanding and exploiting the current systems before you move on. New technology isn't necessarily better — it's just different — and by insisting on using existing technology, your initiative will be cheaper, less risky, and get done faster.
IT-savvy companies have revenue growth that is 3.9 percentage points higher than the average. Position yourself as a leader who knows how to deliver IT-enabled change, since leaders who are willing to volunteer for difficult, strategically important assignments reap the rewards in terms of influence and promotions.
There really is no choice but to learn how to travel smart with IT. After all, who wants to stay where they are and do the same old thing, the same old way?