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Unwinding the IT Ball of string 3 places to start

October 7, 2008

You can either focus on your pain points, or focus on those areas which are already working well — or you might have no choice in the matter:

  • The first and most common approach is to focus on one or more pain points and address those. These pain points can be either ongoing, e.g. a department or functional area with a poorly performing application with unacceptably high running costs. Or it can be point-in-time, e.g. a failed project which had serious organizational repercussions. In general it is easier to institute major change in the second case, simply because the climate is right for change and there will be less opposition. For ongoing pain points however, it’s more of a challenge, because things are still working, however badly, so there will inevitably be some form of resistance to change which will require a combination of skilful selling and assertive leadership.

  • The second approach takes the opposite tack to pain points, and actually looks for those areas which are already working well. Any company will usually have at least one mature group with a stable application and a good relationship between IT and the business. Such a group will, by definition, already be doing a lot of things right, and formalizing one of more of the components of the new model would be a logical step in their process maturity. Once this group is able to demonstrate workable results, it could then become a showcase or catalyst for the more challenging parts of the organization.

  • Lastly, you might not have any choice in the matter: regulatory compliance, a merger, acquisition or even a major internal reorganization are all examples of external factors which might require a certain part of the organization to get its house in order.

If we tried to quantify these costs at a high level, this is what you could expect:

  • Additional heads in the business for the new role of application manager (count 1 for each key functional area or key business process).

  • Additional heads in IT for the new roles of client manager and service manager (maps directly to the previous point, i.e. count 1 for each key functional area or key business process).

  • IT training costs to bring selected staff up to speed on the new model, mainly for project management, workshop facilitation, process and data modelling and iterative development. Count a 3-5 day training course for each of the four areas, plus another few weeks for consolidation of newly acquired skills.

  • New hires, since the new skills will necessarily require a mix of training and hiring. Count two or three people per key application area.

  • Consulting assistance from an ESP for a change management program(count two people for 3-6 months).

Note that this would represent the total costs over 3-5 years. But since you would start with a pilot as explained in the change program proposed in this chapter, the initial first year costs would only apply to a small part of both IT and the business. In the real world therefore, the sums involved should fit comfortably into the annual operational and IT budgets of any company that is serious about wanting to improve its IT effectiveness.

Finally, any discussion of costs would not be complete without a discussion of benefits, which can be summed up as IT delivering reliable solutions in acceptable time frames, at acceptable costs and with clear business benefits.

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