Accelerating Time-to-Value

Accelerating Time-to-Value for IT Enabled Solutions (Part I)

CEOs are placing additional pressure on CIOs to deliver IT-enabled business
solutions in shorter periods of time that have an immediate impact on the
bottom-line. Not surprisingly, both business and IT leaders have a role in
meeting this challenge. From an IT perspective, traditional methods of
scoping, developing and delivering IT solutions need to be reconsidered.
From a business perspective, the idea of throwing projects "over-the-wall"
to IT doesn't work either. Both business and IT need to rethink their
respective roles as new IT-enabled capabilities are envisioned, developed
and deployed. This blog describes the first five of ten best practices that
you might find helpful as you work with your business colleagues to quickly
deliver IT-enabled capabilities. These have less to do with technology and
more to do with how business and IT work together. You'll have to wait for
part II of this blog to read about the remaining five best practices.

1. Pursue a Worthwhile Goal
In order to motivate a group to go fast, the goal has to be compelling. In
most businesses, the executive team, including the CIO, is required to
develop a business strategy that contains a set of initiatives that are
worthwhile, compelling and enable the company to compete effectively in the
marketplace. Many of these strategic initiatives involve some level of
information technology as a critical enabler. However, the complaint among
many business leaders is that these IT investments don't deliver the
requisite business value. To achieve this business value requires a close
partnership between business and IT, each stepping up to their respective
responsibilities. When all parties have a stake in a project's outcome and
are held accountable for results, they are more inclined to endorse and
sustain the effort versus abandon it. See my previous blog, "The business
value of IT."

2. Cut Through the Bureaucracy and Roadblocks
Does your company require IT projects to pass through a gauntlet of
unnecessary reviews, checkpoints, executive presentations and the like? Do
these reviews balance the need to identify and mitigate risk with a
discussion on how to accelerate project deployment and improve the
probability of success? Or have these reviews become more of a formality and
a way to spread accountability? A careful examination of barriers and
roadblocks that delay project completion should be pursued. Those that
aren't aligned with the objective of accelerating deployment and ensuring a
successful outcome should be eliminated.

3. Experience Matters - Use the "A" Team
Most experienced leaders know that a handful of very talented staff can do
the work of a much larger group of average individuals. This requirement is
true for both business and IT professionals assigned to the project. This
may mean pulling some of a company's strongest leaders out of day-to-day
operations for a short period of time. Go with "A" players that have a
demonstrated track record of successful project delivery versus "C" players
that just happen to be available. If a company doesn't have the requisite
number of "A" players to manage the execution of all strategic initiatives,
it can either engage outside resources to supplement internal staff or cut
back on the number of initiatives it is pursuing at any given time.

4. Set Aggressive Time Goals
When it comes to reducing time-to-value for IT-enabled projects, one is
reminded of the old adage - "nothing good happens after midnight." An
IT-enabled project that takes longer than six months will quickly reach the
point of diminishing return where nothing good can occur. In fact, three
months is an even better duration for an IT-enabled project. Application
development techniques like Agile programming can work within even much
shorter time periods - typically less than one month. Yes, it is possible to
deliver substantive, IT-enabled capabilities within a month. This doesn't
mean that businesses should limit their ambitions in terms of the degree of
change that is needed to remain competitive. It just means that they should
time-fence the execution of the change in six month increments or less.

5. Provide Meaningful Incentives
Although the goal in and of itself can motivate high levels of performance,
other incentives can be quite effective as well. These incentives can
include performance bonuses, project participation for skill development,
public recognition, promotions and many others. In any case, incentives need
to be meaningful, performance (as opposed to effort) based and not perceived
as a token. It is also extremely important that business and IT participants
on the project share similar incentives. It is critical that annual
performance objectives for project participants also include successful
milestone completion and, as appropriate, realization of the project's
objectives (e.g. cost reduction, revenue growth, improved customer service)
as a key accountability. Finally, incentives need to be timely (e.g. upon
achievement of a significant project milestone) and not delayed until the
normal end-of-year cycle.

Recent column by Rick Davidson

Seth's Blog: Making meetings more expensive

Making meetings more expensive
...might actually make them cost less.

What would happen if your organization hired a meeting fairy?

The fairies' job would be to ensure that meetings were short, efficient and effective. He would focus on:

• Getting precisely the right people invited, but no others.

• Making the meeting start right on time.

• Scheduling meetings so that they don't end when Outlook says they should, but so that they end when they need to.

• Ensuring that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose, and accomplishes that purpose, then ends.

• Welcoming guests appropriately. If you are hosting someone, the fairy makes sure the guest has adequate directions, a place to productively wait before the meeting starts, access to the internet, something to drink, biographies of who else will be in the room and a clear understanding of the goals of the meeting.

• Managing the flow of information, including agendas and Powerpoints. This includes eliminating the last minute running around looking for a VGA cable or a monitor that works. The fairy would make sure that everyone left with a copy of whatever they needed.

• Issuing a follow up memo to everyone who attended the meeting, clearly delineating who came and what was decided.

If you do all this, every time you call a meeting it's going to cost more to organize. Which means you'll call fewer meetings, those meetings will be shorter and more efficient. And in the long run, you'll waste less time and get more done.