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Get IT Involved Early

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Here’s a quick one-question quiz that will indicate how effective your company is at rolling out projects with a technology component. And these days, are there really any others?

A. We know what we want. We brainstorm in our department and with other business units. Then we write up a plan and schedule a meeting with IT to turn it over to them to build.

B. We make sure to cc: the CIO (or CTO, lead developer, etc.) as we develop our new products. That way we keep him in the loop so we know IT is represented in the process.

If you answered “A” your company works like a lot of others. Projects get done. (You’d be out of business if they didn’t, right?) But many projects take longer than they should and I’m sure you’re frustrated by the process. If it’s any consolation, the folks in IT are just as frustrated.

If your answer was “B” you’re in better shape, but really only marginally.

The best approach (sorry, I know there was no “C” above, that’s the nature of trick questions) is to have someone from IT – in fact, someone from every stakeholder group – involved from the start.

Projects always go more smoothly and have a better chance of success when all voices are heard. There’s lots of research out there supporting this. And people who are engaged in the process bring greater creativity to bear on finding answers. If you start by assuming that everyone wants the company to succeed, then why not open up the brainstorming and planning to more people. In this case, especially IT.

“But IT always just picks holes in our plan. They tell us it won’t work or it’ll take too long to build. And they don’t understand the business the way we do.”

Bridging the IT-Business Divide

This is part of the not-uncommon disconnect between IT and other departments – often Marketing and Sales, who tend to drive product development. It’s something a good CIO can help to overcome – by making it a point to stay on top of what’s being planned, by involvement in developing corporate strategy, and by helping other departments know what IT’s doing. There may be other projects under way that could dovetail with yours – an opportunity to enhance both.

Trust me, IT doesn’t enjoy saying “no” any more than you enjoy hearing it. No one likes to say “no” all the time, to rain on everyone’s parade. But you may have left them no choice. You’ve put together a plan for the next great web site feature. But what if it’s not technically feasible? What can IT do except point that out? It’s all downhill from there. On the other hand, if the tech folks are invited to participate early, they’ll be more likely to point out creative solutions. Again, that should be a broad invitation: Don’t forget Finance, Customer Service – even customers can provide valuable and creative ideas.

The next time you’re sitting down to start whiteboarding, invite IT – and everyone else with something to add.

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