The question I am asked most often by our clients is, “how do we get more business value from our investment in our Information Technology department?” In our experience there are four key areas that need to be addressed to maximize the benefit obtained from the investment in IT:
Align business cases with business strategy
In most cases, the business case for IT investments, including the development or purchase of new software, is not linked to a clear business strategy. IT investments are invariably made on the basis of proposed benefits which are rarely recognized and are often short-term in nature, rather than directly addressing capabilities required to support the organization’s vision.
By ensuring that every investment is directly supporting your business goals, and by regularly reviewing the actual benefits being delivered by past investments, you can begin to more effectively align your IT delivery to add true business value.
Address project management capability
Most IT departments are so overwhelmed by the rate of technology change and the continual demands from the business for new functionality, that they have neither the time nor expertise to address project delivery issues. This results in projects running over time, exceeding budget and failing to meet significant portions of critical business requirements.
Most of these potential problems can be avoided by simply following good project management practices and by ensuring that the structure, processes and underlying practices are proven and consistently applied. This can be effectively achieved by implementing a robust project lifecycle and then hiring experienced project management professionals to assist with the governance an execution of project management.
Accept ownership and responsibility
Similarly, most areas of the business are so busy attending to the rapid changes in their own markets and customer expectations that they have little time to concern themselves with the problems of their IT department.
It is imperative that businesses fully accept responsibility for the delivery of information technology. IT must be considered a critical and core part of your business and the delivery of IT value should be owned directly by the business. Insist on active management engagement and involvement, on focusing on only the most important business problems and on a financial business case for every improvement.
Leverage best practices
Information technology and software development best practices are understood, proven and well documented. Unfortunately, most IT departments are functioning at a process level that is many years behind best practice.
The following three areas are worthy of specific focus in this regard:
Gathering of business requirements:
Ensuring that business requirements are recognized and understood can lead to substantial efficiencies in project delivery and minimize costly rework and slippage in project timescales and costs. Using industry standard tools and notations such as the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) greatly assists in bridging the communication gap that frequently occurs between business process design and implementation.
Estimation and tracking:
Along with project management governance, the implementation and adherence to a robust software development lifecycle will improve the predictability of delivery and early visibility of any variation to plan.
Architecture and software lifecycle:
Effective enterprise and application architecture, coupled with appropriate use of agile development methods, assists in ensuring high quality, maximum flexibility and low levels of support and rework.