by Donn DiNunno of EM&I
These are uncertain times, and changes bring both frustrations and opportunities to organizations that are working to sustain stability long enough to return value from the previous round of changes.
It’s a delicate balance to hold on to in a chaotic environment, but one that can be sustained if, oddly, you’re willing to let go.
There has been a lot written about disruptive technologies or revolutionary innovations (e.g., mass produced automobile, plastic, inexpensive laser printer, compact disks, the Internet, e-mail, digital cameras) that displace existing technologies and create new value networks at the expense of sustaining or evolutionary technological improvements. However, the IT revolution’s impact on business products, marketing vehicles, and customer demands has also had a powerful influence on IT practices.
Ignoring these revolutionary changes while focusing on shorter-term evolutionary changes like cloud computing may leave many organizations and project management offices behind the times. Not because of failing to adopt technological advances, but by failing to align with and leverage emerging and revolutionary work practices.
Here are some of the fundamental process and best practice changes that IT organizations must contend with to remain competitive and relevant to their customers:
Requirements can not be “captured” - The repeatable and defined process principle is flawed. There is no repeatable/defined organizational environment due to cost and schedule pressures coupled with quality and productivity requirements. Capturing these requirements and then delivering them is impossible when they are not well defined and keep changing. The changes affect the architecture, the solution, the process, and the skills needed to deliver a solution.
Risks can not be mitigated - In truth, even a few small unknowns can greatly influence an outcome. Knowing which uncertainties to avoid, manage, mitigate, transfer, or accept assumes knowledge that doesn’t exist. By the time a risk is identified to be proactively handled it is already an issue and the best reaction is to hope it will become overcome by events.
Planning is a waste of time and resources - Planning becomes a casualty of a chaotic environment. Not only do plans change, but the plan becomes hard to follow, difficult to keep up to date, and expensive to enforce or verify in a changing environment. Frequently, the belief that time spent planning is time not spent getting things done is a valid complaint.
Technology is a constraint - Once technology is adopted by an organization, it often becomes a constraining structure that restricts the opportunity space of the user instead of extending human capabilities. The solution becomes difficult to change, and the investment becomes a commodity that must be replaced before it returns value.
Value can not be measured - The quest for proof of the value of IT investment is fruitless when an IT innovation must become ubiquitous to be of value. And as a commodity that is readily available to competitors, it is no longer a competitive advantage. Users are doing things today that would not have been attempted before, but like inflation the measure of performance is also raised for everyone. And besides, tracking performance is demoralizing to the workforce being monitored as well as to the control analysts who have to collect data while the auditors’ findings reveal little that isn’t known already about what needs to be corrected.
If such changing conditions are here to stay what happens to any semblance of governance, controls, manager assurance, demand management, or predictive analytics? Loosening up on rules doesn’t mean abandoning them altogether.
New road conditions ahead - New operating practices are needed to survive in this chaos. Fortunately, past best practices are not entirely obsolete. Activities such as market research, innovation, architecture, project management, engineering and organizational change management are still required. But virtual teams, teleworking, social media, agile organizations, collaborative cultures, participative management, and practices that embrace change are the disruptive influences that must become embedded into the fabric of leading organizations.
These revolutionary changes are a result of a surge in individual freedom; not necessarily because more opportunities are available, but because people of all ages are seeking something better, or at least something different. There is a general unease and a feeling of discontent or of being off-centered and a willingness to do something about it.