Planning

Change And The Big Bang Theory

By |November 6th, 2014|Categories: Change|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Change And The Big Bang Theory

It’s a hectic world out there with technological advances, competitive challenges, and government regulations (just to name a few variables) coming at organizations at breakneck speed. In response, leaders and managers are becoming more worried about failing than they are about learning and improving their organizations’ capabilities. As such, we are finding that even the most forward-thinking organizations are increasingly choosing to hunker down and solidify their positions, as if they can stave off trouble by maintaining the status quo.

The truth is change is coming to a theater near you and soon, but how it comes is entirely up to you. That is the measure of control you do possess. Change can come incrementally or manifest itself as the Big Bang!, and the latter will be much more disruptive than the former, we promise you.

Very often in our line of work we’ll hear someone in IT / IS or Corporate services say, Thank goodness that project is finally finished, as if one particularly pesky piece of business is behind them and it’s smooth sailing ahead. Well, no. If you don’t want to go through the Big Bang! experience (otherwise known as when the wheels fall off), this is not the mindset you should cultivate. Each and every day we at TAG spend considerable energy helping organizations become comfortable with the concept of incremental or continuous improvement. Why? Because if you’re constantly improving, you rarely suddenly arrive at the Big Bang! crossroad.

You can either be the Changer or the Changed, but it is better to be the actor than the acted upon. Change will not be denied. If you choose internal stasis through passivity or inertia, external agents will force you to change because the
[ Read More ]

Squishy Goals Mean Squishy Outcomes

Performance measurements are only as good as your goals.

Goals ► Priorities ► Outcomes ► Initiatives

Do your organizational goals sound something like this: Foster talent by building a culture that maximizes opportunities for growth. Sounds nice, right? But how would you measure that? How would you know when you’ve achieved it? The truth is, it would be next to impossible. Whether you’re creating goals at an organizational level or at an operational level, here are some tips for improving them so that you can demonstrate their achievement.

Describe the outcome.
The trick is to describe the result you hope to achieve rather than the activity. Measuring an activity can result in meaningless metrics. (It is also wise to stay away from words and phrases that cannot be measured such as maximize or more efficient.) Here’s a possibility: Growth and innovation will increase through training, mentoring, and creating time buffers around scheduled projects.

Studies have shown that goal specificity and level of difficulty have a direct impact on employee performance: Goals that are specific and challenging (but not unreasonable) lead to better performance by motivating employees.

Create line of sight.

Just as important, a clear line of sight should exist between corporate objectives and the goals set at the operational level—employees should be able to grasp their roles’ importance in the larger picture. In order to achieve this, it is helpful to include different levels of the organization in developing the goals to ensure consensus, cooperation, and realistic goal-setting.

Define the measure.

Once your goals have been determined, you will be able to think about how you will measure the outcome.

Performance measures should be as explicit as your goals, and answer the following:

It is an old saying but true: you cannot manage what
[ Read More ]

Applying The 80/20 Principle To Portfolio Management

The 80/20 principle posits that 80% of organizational value comes from 20% of your projects. The 80/20 allocation seems to hold true for a lot of things: I know I wear 20% of my clothing 80% of the time, and I use my pots and pans the same way. Nevertheless, the 80/20 principle is a particularly handy concept when thinking about managing the projects in your portfolio.

First, using the 80/20 principle, think about which projects are critical, must-haves, and core to your mission (about 20% of the whole array), and set aside those that are discretionary or not vital. During this exercise, projects that should be eliminated altogether should be obvious. (Be ruthless.) Of the mission-critical projects, decide which should proceed and which should be deferred based on urgency and capacity. Considerations during your deliberations should include:

Second, having decided which projects should proceed, it is time to collaborate with the entire range of managers, from line managers to senior managers, to prioritize them. Each will contribute something to the debate, and it is better to debate now than waste valuable resources (time, money, and people) later. Line managers will have first-hand knowledge of processes and capacity; middle management will have a better view of the interplay and inter-relationships between departments and activities, and top management will possess the long view that encompasses the overall organization direction and strategy. And obviously, inviting greater participation overall means greater cooperation and commitment.

Third, once your projects have been prioritized, it is time to figure out who will be doing what. Streamlining your projects down to the vital few has the added benefit of not stretching the capacity you have, but concentrating it where it is needed most. Here I
[ Read More ]

Cutting Your Project Portfolio Down to Size

That big project portfolio of yours is your biggest headache. It’s true. If you are like most companies, your portfolio has grown to an unwieldy size, which means you have way too many projects competing for the same resources. Here’s what to do.

First, inventory ALL projects and activities that require any kind of IT resources, making sure to include non-obvious ones like SMEs and user training time. According to Gartner, 60% of IT’s budget is spent on operational, “keep the light on” activities, so it is important that these are included to ensure correct allocation of project resources. Projects that pull resources from core operations can create business risk.

Second, decide who will comprise a governance committee, i.e., who will make decisions concerning the portfolio. This should be a mix of IT and business leaders with the authority to make decisions for the organization. The governance committee will determine which projects should continue, which should be delayed, and which should be terminated. These decisions will be made based on determining which projects have the potential to create the most value for the company. Each project in the portfolio should align with business goals and be ranked on the strength of its business case outlining benefits, costs and risk. Keep this simple, but also be on the lookout for project interdependencies. You certainly don’t want a critical project bungled because it relied on deliverables from another project that was killed or delayed.

The importance of strong governance in the portfolio process cannot be overstated. Projects that are nice but not essential drain away resources that could be used more productively. Focus on cutting unnecessary demand and don’t start new projects until you know for certain that
[ Read More ]

Cost Optimization – It’s The Principle Of It…

Groucho Marx once joked “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.” This is great for getting a laugh, but decision making without guiding principles is like a ship’s captain navigating the wind and current without a compass.

The same can be said about an IT organization’s approach to cost optimization. After years of one-off tactical cost cutting, many businesses are facing the challenge of ongoing and continuous cost optimization. For many, this is no longer the exception but the new reality.

The usual approach to cutting costs is the purely tactical. Problem is, when the clear cost culprits have been identified and reduced or eliminated, future optimization initiatives can become more arbitrary and problematic. Even the low-hanging fruit that appears to be an obvious candidate for reduction to some may not be to others—like your business clients.

In a recent Gartner survey, CIO’s were asked, “What are the main barriers preventing organizations from achieving continuous optimization of IT costs?” Sixty-five percent of the respondents indicated that it was a matter of mindset—that is, creating the environment necessary for all resources to work together, move in the same direction, and agree on the same strategy.

We agree. TransAccel believes there’s a better approach to determining cost optimization decisions—one based on four “Guiding-Principles.” The benefits of using this method include a more consistent alignment with the company’s strategic drivers, a consensus among business leaders, a long-term framework for ongoing cost optimization initiatives, and a correct way to maintain what is most important to the organization.

The Four Principles are:

Transparency – IT and business leaders need to explicitly agree on what IT provides the business, and what the business needs from IT. Often, basic cost optimization
[ Read More ]

With A Little Help From My Friends

By |September 30th, 2013|Categories: time|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

In my travels, I try to pick up tidbits to help me be more effective at managing projects. We’ve all seen the various tools, techniques, methodologies, etc. to help us deliver against The Big Three: cost, scope and time—but is that really all there is? The funny thing about projects is that success is declared despite most of the project participants knowing that the outcome was somewhat less than successful. Why is that? You hear things like, “It came in on time, under budget and was executed exactly as documented in the requirements.” So it must have been a success, right? And yet there is an unspoken disappointment because it’s not really entirely what was envisioned.

The other day, I ran across a great piece by Gartner about improving project success. Its premise was that if you focus on three things—Partnership, Requirements and Resources—you can really increase the probability of a successful project outcome. Wow! . . .something different from The Big Three!! I was easily able to relate requirements and resources back to the big three, but what about partnership? The formal definition of “partnership” (courtesy of my dictionary) was of little use, but when I looked at its synonyms, I found words like alliance, collaboration, connection, relation, and union. And that’s when it hit me. Partnership doesn’t relate to the big three but rather comprises the foundation that enables us to deliver on them. Without true partnership, project realization or the ability to deliver the expected value from the project is unlikely.

This should have been obvious considering the successful projects I’ve participated in and led. It was partnership at all levels that helped drive realization. From various IT organizations to external partners to
[ Read More ]

Mark that project APPROVED…

By |October 17th, 2011|Categories: Planning|Tags: , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Today, every company is pursuing more projects than it can successfully handle, and that puts your project at risk of not getting the approval it needs to move forward. So, what can you do to make sure that a governance committee review doesn’t leave you and your project on the outside looking-in? Follow these steps to give your project an advantage over other projects in the queue for review.

 

Understand and communicate the business case for your project.
This starts with understanding the business strategy and business drivers that prompted your project in the first place. If you don’t understand what the business is trying to accomplish, you have very little chance of your project hitting the mark.Once the business strategy and drivers are clear, identify very specifically—and quantitatively where possible—exactly how your project will provide benefit relative to the business drivers and business strategy.

Work with key people in the business area to develop and review the business case to ensure that it is sound and strong.

Creating a solid, strong business case is the most important factor in not only getting the project approved, but also in ensuring that the project team clearly understands what is to be accomplished, why, and how it will help the business.
Identify resourcing needs by role.
Resources, especially people, are always in high demand, and you need to be very clear about the resources that your project will require (people, facilities, equipment, etc.). Clearly identify your resource needs by being specific. Assuming that your request for two technical analysts you will get you what you actually need might be a mistake. Having the right skills, expertise and individuals detailed on a project can greatly improve the probability of project success.
Identify project interdependencies.
As
[ Read More ]

October: Conscious Planning

October is probably the most grueling month of the IT planning cycle, given the exorbitant amount of time expended in meetings. Each department—Sales, Marketing, R&D and Manufacturing—will meet with its IT counterpart to plan next year’s projects. These meetings should be dialogue-driven events that result in a shared understanding of anticipated business drivers over the next 12-18 months, current market conditions, emerging trends, and specific strategies to capitalize on opportunities. In preparation for these meetings, it would also be helpful for IT to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) comparing your company to 3 or 4 competitors. Not only will this assessment point out technical strengths and weaknesses, but it is always wise to know what the competition is up to.

Unfortunately, October is also a time of enormous pressure, as both IT and the Business push hard to achieve MBO deliverables before the end of the year. Too often, the competing time constraints of completing existing projects while planning new ones causes Business to default on the planning side, leaving IT to design new projects on its own. This lack of input from Business leads to “silo” thinking: “We know what they [the Business] really want or need.”

Now, in a perfect world, Business would remain engaged with the IT Account Manager—the one who not only has the best vantage point from which to understand and articulate Business’s needs, but is also well-equipped to offer ideas and solutions to address those needs holistically (end-to-end) rather than piecemeal. But, if Business opts out and IT can’t get it back to the table, or IT believes it actually can do the planning on its own, the next step needs to be the creation of a business case, or
[ Read More ]

September: Conscious Planning… IT Planning Season Has Begun

By |September 1st, 2011|Categories: Planning|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Although strategy determines IT’s focus and direction, it’s planning that drives execution. And, despite the obvious importance of planning, very few IT organizations do it, other than to create a list of projects they hope to focus on. That’s not planning—that’s a wish list. We could argue for hours about the myriad reasons IT organizations lack a robust annual planning process, but it all comes down to needing to know how to do it, and having the discipline to do it once you know how.

In an effort to make planning less overwhelming, every month I am going to provide in this space a guide for the upcoming month. This guide will include a checklist and a set of questions that every IT leader should contemplate to be successful in 2012.

The first step to IT planning is aligning the IT calendar to the corporate calendar. If you are like most of our clients, the corporate financial calendar is based on the yearly calendar. This makes September the most critical time of the year in terms of planning for the following year’s success. Therefore, from a corporate calendar perspective (January through December), the first month in an annual planning calendar should be September.

September has begun, and, with the Labor Day holiday, we’re all probably behind schedule already. It’s time to get back to work—there is little time to be wasted. Here is where I recommend you begin:

September Theme: Alignment

To do:

Determine what 2011 projects are slipping
Ascertain what needs to happen to complete 2011 projects
Focus resources on completing those projects
Arrange for face-to-face meetings with divisional leadership. The objective is to hear and engage with each business unit regarding its objectives for 2012.
Immediately following these meetings, the IT business
[ Read More ]

Rx: Annual IT Health Check

Welcome to TransAccel’s inaugural blog! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to talk to you about what I see as the biggest challenges facing IT and business today. To stimulate my thinking around the new adventure of blogging, I’ve been reflecting on the many years my colleagues and I have strategized, innovated, and just generally cleaned up messes. You have your stories too. This is the place to share them, and we hope you do.

Over the next few months members of my team and I will be writing about:

Where to start? For me it all begins with a good understanding of who you are, where you are, and where you would like to be. And, just as an annual physical exam uncovers potential health issues, we insist on a “IT Health Check” too. After all, how can we know what remedial measures to take without an initial assessment?

Now, it seems pretty obvious that getting an annual check-up is smart and generally contributes to better health, right? Well, how many IT organizations put off a yearly exam and try to self diagnose? Worse yet, how many IT organizations have never even had an exam—you know, an independent review of how they operate? Interestingly, when we do a “Health Check,” we find that most IT organizations today are similar in two respects.

First—and to the seeming surprise of Business—IT is made up of human beings who have the same issues as everyone else: lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to detail, and indifference towards results. Having been in the business some 30 years I can tell you without question that these “soft” skills are just as important as “tech” skills
[ Read More ]