Archive for category Understand the Business

The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The Elephant In Your Project

The Elephant In Your Project

 

The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The high ‘failure’ rates of IT and business projects have been documented for over four decades by numerous studies and publications.  The Standish Group International reported in 2001 that around 23% of projects are failures, and 49% are ‘challenged’.  Doing the math indicates that only around 28% of projects meet their expectations.  A more recent IBM study in 2008, Making Change Work, indicated that on average 41% met all expectations and 59% missed one or more expectations, or failed completely.  Even worst news from IBM was that companies that were ‘novices at projects for change” had only 8% of projects that met all expectations.  Houston we have a problem!

My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or the Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive risk management – a responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager.  The IBM study, only one of a few, also indicated that the lack of recognizing the project’s complexity was a major factor in a project’s success or failure.  Yet only 18% indicated their efforts fully addressed project complexity and risk.

Every project, IT or business, is a process – a process with varying degrees of complexity.  A process’s complexity: defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.

Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously – but they are not.  A project risks:  are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Increased project complexity increases a risk’s possible impact.  Risks can be prevented, repaired if they become an issue or mitigated.  Complexity is not an event and is harder or impossible to prevent, repair or mitigate once the project begins.

So why do most project sponsors and managers do a lousy job of complexity assessment and risk management?  A few reasons are:

Lack of awareness, skills, training and/or experience

Internal politics

Lack of formal assessment/ management process that is consistent and repeatable

Lack of assessment/management reporting and tools

 

Part 2 will discuss more on assessing complexity and Part 3 will discuss risk management.

 



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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #6

Understand the Business

Understand the Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habits of a Successful Career

Habit #6 – Understand the ‘Business’

In understanding how things operate, you need to know what makes them tick – their ‘gears’.  This analogy is the same for all organizations and business ventures.  Most people’s careers are associated with business ventures: small, medium, or large.  These ventures can be for-profit, non-profit, or public service.  No matter what your position/career, consistently successful people must have, at a minimum, a good working knowledge of the breadth and depth of their business venture.  Of course, they have a greater depth of knowledge in their chosen professional/career area, but they also know all of the business ‘gears’, and interactions with each other.  Go for breadth of knowledge, then depth, of the ‘gears’ outside of your area.  Habit #4, Passion for Learning, complements Habit #6.  Continually learn and expand your knowledge in the business areas including, but not limited to:

  • Industry and Competitors
  • Business Model and Business Units
  • Economics and Key Performance Indicators
  • Products and/or Services
  • Business Processes
  • Technology and Systems
  • Accounting, Budgeting (capital and operating), and Financials
  • Sales and Customers
  • Critical Projects and Initiatives
  • Organization Chart and Key Leaders

 

This knowledge will make you more valuable inside and outside of your company.

 

 

 

 



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Seven Habits of a Successful Career

Successful Career Moves

Successful Career Moves

 

Time is nearing for another group of bright, young people to graduate from college.  Many are interviewing for their first job that begins a career.  They are prepared having spent about four years taking over forty classes in a variety of areas of knowledge.  Thousands are eager and ready to go.

But wait.  After years of schooling and a degree(s) in their chosen area, most of the ‘habits’ these new graduates need for a successful career were not emphasized nor taught in their curriculum. They were taught ‘subjects’.  People’s ‘attitudes’ and ‘behaviors’ are the biggest differentiator in a successful career.  People need to embrace and develop these Habits sooner than later.

 

 

 

The Seven Habits for a Successful Career include:

1)   Define Success/Goals and Priorities

First and foremost define what success is for YOU – career, professional and personal.  Too many people have their definition of success defined or overly influenced by family, friends, etc.  Second, layout a path to achieve your success by setting 2, 5 and 7 year goals.  Lastly, prioritize these goals and events.  Repeat this exercise at least every 2 years and/or after a significant life event.

2)   Be Proactive and Adapt to Change

Proactive people learn to anticipate future events and take initiative in shaping the results.  They understand that change can create problems, but focus on opportunities change creates.  During difficult times, they look for the good in people and events, and know proactive people can be counted on.

3)   Build Trust and Credibility

Trust and credibility is like oil.  It’s the ‘stuff’ that makes relationships with people work.  Consider this. “With high trust, success comes faster, better and at a lower cost” says David Neeleman, Founder of JetBlue.  Trust is not just a touchy, feely concept.  It (interpersonal trust) is an attitude or state of mind that has been cultivated between people.  Consider this definition of trust from the Covey’s:

TRUST = One’s Character + One’s Competency

4)   Embrace a Passion for Learning

After enduring four or more years of college, most are ecstatic to get out in the ‘real world’ – and quit studying.  But if a successful career is one of your goals, then recognize that learning is a journey, not a destination.  Success requires continued knowledge and skills improvement in areas like current events, technology, selling, business, management, communication, leadership, etc.

5)   Put Some Gratitude in Your Attitude

Successful people are consistently enthusiastic and energetic, and their attitude is contagious.  Others want to work with people with this attitude. No matter how much success a person may attain: (1) never take yourself too seriously; (2) be a team player; (3) have fun; and (4) celebrate other’s successes.  Cultivate others that have put some gratitude in their attitude as team members, colleagues, mentors, coaches, etc.

6)   Understand the ‘Business’

Most people’s careers are associated with business ventures – small, medium, or large.  No matter what position/career a person holds, successful people have at least a good breadth and depth of knowledge about their business.  Learn and continue expanding knowledge in the business including: the industry, business model, products and customers, processes, technology, economics, financials, etc.

7)   Develop Your ‘People’ Skills’

People skills are very important regardless of where a person is in their career.  But later in a career if a goal is to be an executive/leader, accomplished people skills are mandatory.  Continually learn and improve an array of communication skills including: listening, listening, listening, writing, speaking, presenting and selling.   In addition, successful careers are usually associated with people that have built strong relationships and networks.  Lastly, cultivate people that will be your coach and mentor, and return this help by coaching and mentoring others.

 

If a person becomes accomplished in these Seven Habits, and masters some, their goals will be in reach, and can be successful in any career.  And remember  . . .

We are what we repeatedly do!

Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a Habit!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Aristotle

Update:  See discussion on 4Q’s of Successful People which compliment these 7 Habits.   http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130621191454-73785410-the-four-qs-of-career-success?trk=tod-posts-art-

 

 



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IT Organization Success

Keys to IT Success

 

 

 Keys to IT Organization Success

No secret, for decades many IT organizations have struggled to be successful – probably more so than any other.  When is the last time you saw a dozen articles on the struggling accounting, marketing or human resources organizations?

Martha Heller in a 2010 CIO Magazine article discusses IT struggles and suggests a few ‘paradoxes’ in IT organizations that may be barriers to a successful IT organization.

  • The Business wants IT to be strategic, but force them to spend most of their time on operational issues.
  • IT needs to be stewards of risk mitigation and cost containment, yet expected to innovate.
  • IT is seen as that of an enabler, yet is also expected to be a business driver.
  • IT can make or break a company, but its leaders are infrequently members of C-level executive groups.
  • IT is one of the most pervasive, critical functions, yet must prove its value constantly.
  • Many IT successes are invisible, yet its few mistakes are highly visible.
  • IT project teams are accountable for project success, even if the Business has ownership.
  • IT staff loves new technology, but must embrace/understand the Business to be successful.
  • Many IT teams/people are uncomfortable dealing with people, but to succeed must build relationships, influence others, and resolve conflicts.
  • IT infrastructure is a consistent, long-term investment, but the Business thinks in quarters.

And here are a few more paradoxes I have experienced:

  • The Business wholly adopted  ‘BPI’, but IT has poor processes and rarely has budget for improvement.
  • C-level executives believe IT costs too much and fails to provide comparable value, but have limited knowledge of IT project or operational successes.
  • C-level executives expect IT to deliver new, strategic capabilities to their Business unit, yet most of the project identification, priorities and governance is driven by Business users and managers.
  • IT needs/must align its goals/objectives to the Business, yet the Business units goals/objectives are not always aligned with each other.

Any of these barriers hinder IT leaders and organizations from being valued and successful.  They can be mitigated and/or knocked down, but requires a relevant, achievable Strategy, competent People, and consistent, repeatable Processes.  In addition it also takes the IT leaders and staff to embrace/develop these 7 Habits of Excellence.

  • Build  Trust and Credibility
  • Develop  a Proactive Culture
  • Understand  the Company, Business Model, and Industry
  • Align  with Company’s Goals and Objectives
  • Lead  People  -  Manage Things
  • Adapt  to Change
  • Embrace  a Passion for Learning and Improvement

 

Developing these 7 Habits of Excellence will mitigate or eliminate barriers and result in these IT organization benefits:

  • Faster Throughput (projects and processes)
  • Less Costly (unit costs)
  • Better  Quality (products, software, systems and processes)
  • More Agility  (change)
  • More Capacity  (w/o more resources)
  • Better Risk Management
  • Better Place to Work

What IT paradoxes is your group facing??



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Drivers and Barriers in Establishing Business Alignment?

 

Alignment

Alignment

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizational Alignment 101

Before getting started with “how to” establish business alignment (BA), the champion of the effort needs to understand certain conditions exist inside organizations that are drivers or barriers for BA.  Think of drivers as conditions that make it easier, but not impossible if absent, for BA.  Barriers are conditions that may prevent BA or make it more difficult.  These evaluations will be helpful in determining a strategy for success. The most important are:

Drivers

  1. Business executives and leaders understand and support BA
  2. Executives and leaders understand all parts of the business – strategy/model, processes, etc.
  3. BA a priority for business executives and organizations not in alignment
  4. All executives participate in developing business strategy, model, goals, etc
  5. Individual business MBO incentives support BA
  6. Demonstrated leadership depth and breadth
  7. Executives have track record of delivering on commitments
  8. Active process to measure BA

Barriers

  1. Business units and departments are not well aligned
  2. Executives and leaders do not trust each other
  3. Business and/or  culture and decision making highly political
  4. Misaligned organization relegated to a ‘vendor’ instead of a business partner
  5. Lack of consistent and repeatable project portfolio management process
  6. Lack of consistent and repeatable project governance process
  7. Lack of consistent and repeatable service level agreement process
  8. Poor or no definition of IBA

It is imperative for executives and leaders to understand which drivers and barriers exist.  Periodically, they need to honestly evaluate drivers and barriers for each business unit, department, etc. that needs a high degree of BA.  They must take actions to create and continuously improve drivers.  For barriers, take actions to eliminate or continuously mitigate.



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