Magazine article Policy & Practice

There's No Such Thing as an IT Project ... Only Business Projects with IT Components

Magazine article Policy & Practice

There's No Such Thing as an IT Project ... Only Business Projects with IT Components

Article excerpt

Why do you invest so much money in technology? To solve business problems. There are many components to a project: policy, program, legal, funding, and yes, technology. Information Technology (IT) investments must be aligned with your organization's strategy and goals. Proper due diligence must be conducted to ensure that you are investing in the right things and that there is value derived from those investments. There are many options and considerations that require comprehensive analysis and planning in advance of all decisions and execution. With so much at stake, how can you afford not to plan your projects with a broad and holistic perspective?

IT to support business needs and processes is no longer just nice to have. It is an expectation and a necessity. It is how you conduct your business and serve your clients. This is just as true in the public sector as it is in private industry. A younger work force, technologically equipped clients, decreased budgets, and staffing reductions all support the demand for technology in your business. Responding to client needs, complying with regulations, managing workloads, and measuring outcomes are all business problems that require technological and data-driven solutions. Unfortunately, without considering all potential areas of impact and opportunity, technology can sometimes exacerbate issues or create new problems, rather than achieve the intended outcomes.

Technology is not a silver bullet to solve all of your business problems. For instance, equipping your staff with a smartphone or iPad[R] without a plan for how to use them and what you hope to achieve may become a wasted investment. Worse yet, there may be unintended consequences from a "failed" technology project. If you haven't given careful consideration to possible regulatory violations, data-sharing limitations, labor implications, or funding options for your project, you may be exposing your organization (not just the project) to significant risk.

For projects with sizable IT components, responsibilities such as project management and project sponsorship are often delegated to a technology department or senior technology professional. While seemingly logical, this delegation introduces the risk of critical business needs falling victim to technological perspective. As a result, project management becomes reactive, preventing goal-oriented and effective solutions. Without an intentional and well-designed planning process on the front-end and holistic project management focused on solving the business problem throughout the project lifecycle, true project implications may not be revealed until it's too late or too costly to address issues effectively. In this reactive mode, all of the options that were once available may be limited.

In the IT world, it's common to hear that projects fail due to poor requirements, lack of project management, and inadequate testing. These, however, are symptoms of bigger and broader issues. System requirements will not be correct if the business problem to be solved is not thoroughly contemplated, a comprehensive business process has not been developed, and business impacts have not been fully considered. Without these elements, projects tend to be managed through the software development lifecycle, which is focused solely on the technology and not on the business. All of the impacts to the broader environment and stakeholders may not be evident until the project is fully implemented.

Another issue that often occurs is what you could call "one vendor, one approach." If you have a vendor that you are under contract with, and you want to leverage that contract to expedite a solution, you are inviting bias and limitations based upon their skills, experiences, available assets, and/or solution offerings. These solutions may not be the best answer to solve the problem at hand. Some contracts are 8-10 years in duration, and the incumbent IT vendor may be tapped to add functionality to whatever custom-developed solution it is responsible for supporting. …

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