How to drive IT corporate programs with a simple three-dimensional value model

It is challenging to comprehend fully all implications of your decisions, when these refer to changing corporate IT platforms. Details (which are often perceived as minor) may have a major impact on users experience and, in best cases, it takes reasonable time and training, to close gaps between status-quo-ante and new expected results.

For good reasons, people generally fear changes, but forces of market oblige corporations to improve continuously, hence good IT platforms may make the difference, if you know how to move in the right direction.

Key dimensions for managing the change

The mantra for justifying IT initiatives is always: “Better processes through better applications, in order to have happy customers, investors, management and employees”. Of course, who comes first among these subjects varies case-by-case and business-by-business (and often not all of these stakeholders are seriously considered). However, the point is how to get there.

IT applications are not magic sticks, which are capable to turn into gold faulty operations, or bad process set-up, which are impeding organization’s achievements, eagerly awaited by stakeholders at any level.

Furthermore, if you want to succeed in deployment of IT platforms, top down approaches do not work smoothly, unless you win – along the execution – hearts and brains of users and management.

This is the way to make less painful a journey, which always require time, efforts and patience, the more, the longer and deeper is the portion of organizational value chain, which is going to get the impact.

In short, when people are involved (especially in multinational structures), you do not get operational excellence by just dropping on their heads new applications.

In the following, this post proposes a set of key dimensions (plans and indexes), which might help the Program Manager in the challenge to get the right execution done.

The picture below shows Delivery Indexes (Application Deployment, User Ownership and Process Alignment) and Performance Plans (Consistency, Motivation and Operational Excellence):

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Next paragraph will define and describe shortly above items, whose specific content and measure remain very much dependent on context of applications and organizations, in which affected processes are in place.

What Delivery Indexes mean and how they work together

The ultimate objective of assigned Program Manager is to have 100% Application Deployment (i.e. all targeted users enabled to use the application), 100% Process Alignment (i.e. all targeted activities and processes covered by the application) and 100% User Ownership (i.e. all targeted users and managers fully satisfied in using exclusively the application, in place of any alternative solution).

Maximization of these three indexes result in maximization of expected return on investment.

It is worth noting that maximization of individual Delivery Indexes (with poor score for remaining indexes) does not provide full value, which is the volume of pyramid, whose vertices are in the origin and along respective axis of Delivery Indexes.

For instance, if you have all users enabled and pleased (100% Application Deployment and 100% User Ownership), but you have 0% on Process Alignment, this means that you have created and delivered a platform that works perfectly for an activity that is not at all the process, which you were originally requested to address or improve.

Another extreme example is to have all users enabled and full process coverage (100% Application Deployment and 100% Process Alignment) with 0% on User Ownership. This final poor index indicates that both users and operational management rejected – for whatever reason – the application, regardless the potential convenience to use it. In practical, while everything is set up and potentially running, nobody is enjoying it (while use of previous applications or new alternative tools is still in place).

The reader might exercise, and test validity of the model, with further scenarios.

Of course, neither 0%, nor 100% may make sense in real world for any of mentioned indexes, with minimum and maximum values set forth by boundary conditions, which apply for the given undertaking and organization.

The fundamental point to take is that Program Manager has to grow these indexes (up to maximum target level) by balancing tactical and strategic sensitivity. The trick is not to put their advancement one after the other in proper order, but to decide when and what to move – in parallel or individually – or what to stop for a while, by letting remaining indexes go.

Indeed, a corporate IT initiative develops in years, with both processes and organization in evolution, with new needs and people coming in the picture, while initial requirements, old sponsors and co-workers might fade away.

These fundamental facts require the capability of Program Manager to adjust direction and maintain “political” support – from all concerned stakeholders and users – throughout the whole lifecycle of the program.

What Performance Plans mean and how they work together

It is important to explain names of Performance Plans, and reasons for these are contained by given Delivery Indexes.

Consistency Plan results when application is fully deployed and in line with process expectations. This means to have initiative consistently developed and deployed in order to serve 100% of users with 100% of process coverage (this is to Program Manager the plan of project management, as long as development and deployment timelines are respected too).

Motivation Plan is where program is completed with deep engagement and satisfaction of all planned users (in both operational and management classes). This is why the plan is defined by Application Deployment and User Ownership (this is to Program Manager the plan of customer satisfaction).

Operational Excellence Plan is achieved when implemented application is in line with expected processes, with users and management satisfaction. In this way, operations get the invaluable extra special ingredient to performance, which comes only from personal engagement.

As underlined in previous paragraph, it depends on ability and strategy of Program Manager to decide how to navigate in resulting 3D space.

For instance, a strong start in Operational Excellence Plan (with an appropriate selection of important users and managers) may gain crucial credit to open with rest of reluctant users and managers in affected organization.

Another important scenario is Program Manager, who needs to “buy time”, and decide to leverage Motivation Plan. In this case, Program Manager might choose to deliver a minimum process coverage to a large number of users and managers, while own team is developing – or even understanding – what it takes to make 100% on Process Alignment index.

While reader can elaborate more cases, it is important to stress again that neither 0%, nor 100% makes sense in real corporations for indexes proposed in this model.

Conclusions and reality check

The difference between models and experiences is such that majority of professors stays in their classes and majority of managers stays in their offices.

On the other hand, better progress happens only when professors and managers talk openly to each other, because in this way experience might become education and vice versa.

The proposed model worked well in my personal experience. I developed these ideas along the way, while I was running – for the initial seven years – a strategic initiative for a large global Business Unit.

Maybe the reader might prove again the concept, or demonstrate that my program was successful only because of unrepeatable availability of extraordinary team and supporting top management.

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