Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Close the Gap

Readers Survey - Results

There are very few instances in fact I struggle to think of even one example, where an IT-led project will not impact the organisation through some sort of structure, people or process change. Time and again I see a gap existing between the delivery of a project and the organisational change it inevitably creates. Often companies will engage expensive consultants to help with the organisations cultural and process changes; sometimes they do this at the same time as running an IT project, however even if the two are running in parallel they’re generally tracking along their own path and seldom if ever come together.

Because I specialise in this area I wanted to understand if the critical success factors and challenges this gap presents to a business have changed with the global economic climate. I was also interested in the actions or processes you are taking or putting in place to reduce this gap. Hence the December Survey - Organisational Change and IT-led Project Management Processes.

So what did the survey tell me? Well, some very interesting things actually but you'll have to read on to find out.

With all the doom and gloom in the media about redundancies, business closures, and budget cuts I expected the survey to reflect this with no investment being made in organisation and project process improvement. How wrong was I?!

40% of our respondents are conducting significant reviews of their organisational change and IT-led project management processes right now. What are the main drivers for doing this? 60% said they’re doing it to improve their internal services. This is great news as it shows companies remain focused on process improvement, productivity and of course the cost savings streamlining processes always brings. This is even more critical in times of economic gloom as it readies the business for the good times to come.

If 40% is actively reviewing their processes now, what are the other 60% doing? Well 30% had just reviewed everything a year or more ago (excellent though might be time to revisit again), but more concerning is the 30% who didn’t know when their company had last conducted a significant review. Imagine the productivity increases and cost savings they’re missing out on by doing the same thing in the same way in completely different economic and market conditions?

Only 20% of our respondents said their current organisational change and project management processes met their requirements well. That’s a very small number. 30% said their requirements were adequately met while a larger 40% said their needs were NOT adequately met. How can a business expect to achieve its objectives and profit margins if the organisation is not supporting it through ‘fit-for-purpose’ processes and projects? Thankfully 50% of respondents say their organisational change activities and projects are either already aligned or they have plans to align them, but it’s the 20% who don’t know how to go about doing this that would do well to ask for some help.

And what did our respondents say were the main barriers to aligning organisational change activities with projects? Of the items listed Departmental Agendas, Understanding and Culture presented high or significant barriers. You might be surprised to know that Cost, Timing and Stakeholder buy-in all rated average – so while they exist as barriers they are areas that can be managed and coordinated. You told me the areas that bring the most benefit were Reduced Costs, Empowerment of individuals or teams, Increased buy-in of all stakeholders, and Reduced time to profitability. This suggests the effort involved in closing the gap will provide clearer sense of purpose, everyone will understand more about who has to do what, where, when and how, and overall processes will be more streamlined making execution and delivery faster, with higher quality and less cost. Exactly what you want!

How then are you going about achieving this? Do you have lots of high-calibre expertise in-house able to take on this work in addition to their already stretched roles? Apparently not! 50% of you already use or are considering using skilled external resources. Why? Again 50% of you say you use external resource to “Gain access to best practice knowledge not available in house”. This is a wise and cost-effective approach as it allows you to augment your existing team with specialist skills for the time you need them. If you choose your external resources well they’ll come in, quickly understand what it is you want to achieve, maybe challenge your thinking a bit so you’ll achieve even more, get things done while working alongside your people to transfer skills and knowledge so they gain new ideas and work methods to be self-sufficient going forward. At least that’s how I help clients…

The investment areas for processes have 40% of you focused on improving integration with other core systems. The rest of you are pretty evenly spread across integration with suppliers and customers throughout the supply chain and unlocking existing functionality that is not being used. With all the hype around SEO technologies and the use of tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter it was surprising to see only 20% of you are considering investment in processes for SEO enabling technologies, systems and functions. With regards business focused system or service purchases a staggering 0% of you are considering SEO, 50% e-Commerce or CRM, and 30% don’t plan to make any purchases at all. Does that suggest there is still a lot of battening down the hatches and budget cuts?

Aside from everything else only 20% of you are considering business focused system or service purchases in the PMO (Portfolio/Program Management Office) area. Perhaps this suggests your projects are all delivering what, when and how they should and it’s just that gap of alignment with the organisation that’s letting the side down. Regardless there appears to be an unaltered requirement amongst our readers to continually improve processes, make use of the right people with the right skills on the right activities at the right time, and invest where it will bring the most benefit to the business overall.

This is a satisfying outcome however the results show there’s still a long way to go to truly close the gap.

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