10 Ways to Avoid Screwing Everything Up

Mistake 9: Over-centralization of IT functions – As organizations have recognized the value of technology, many have restructured around the CIO function, providing large budgets and even larger expectations to technology managers. While this creates an opportunity for standardization and synergy, a centralized IT function is often focused more on efficiency than corporate effectiveness.

Any central IT function must have active outreach programs to business groups to constantly improve the project selection, requirements identification, project metric determination and project management functions.

Mistake 10: Enabling ‘rogue’ IT projects through over-decentralization of the IT function – Organizations whose centralized IT functions are not meeting the needs of the business areas often find themselves with “unofficial” technology (i.e., shadow IT, rogue projects and, now, stealth cloud) efforts funded and managed by their business areas. While such projects are more likely to achieve their business metrics, they can suffer from lack of integration with other efforts. Costs, both human and systems, for such rogue projects are often duplicative. Rogue IT organizations are often a valuable aid in improving an organization’s technology health by focusing attention on ways that technology business service can be improved.

A framework for improvement

Learning lessons from these common IT mistakes is vital to avoiding future missteps. Here are three specific things that every CIO and IT manager can do right now to make their IT strategy more effective and more efficient:

1. Assess and improve your project alignment processes. Do you have post-project audits and an experienced-based, business metric centric project selection structure? Do you know which investments have led to your biggest (and smallest) business gains? What have you learned about selecting projects? How have you applied this knowledge?

2. Check the integration of technology in your organization. Do you anticipate and plan for process and culture changes needed for project success? Is your architecture modular to enable flexible growth? Can new projects take advantage of data and applications that preceded them?

3. Improve project management to better serve your business areas. Assess requirements analysis and project communication efforts to see how they can better serve the business areas. Check business line satisfaction with central IT. Identify rogue projects that may be symptomatic of larger problems.

Improving your organization’s approaches for alignment, integration and project management can significantly improve the success of your information technology efforts. Simple ways to begin are in the processes and metrics that surround project selection and assessment. Begin post project audits to improve knowledge management and documentation. Include in every project nomination and/or implementation plan sections for risk mitigation and project-reuse (mandated inclusion of previous project tools and or results). Identify your organization’s own lessons learned and ensure that they are incorporated in your metrics and processes.

This article does not touch on all common IT mistakes and certainly does not include all possible remedies. However, constantly assessing the relationship between technology, process and culture is key to learning from and avoiding IT mistakes. Review the effectiveness of IT as seen through the eyes of the business and through the existence of rogue projects for a leaner, more effective IT strategy.

Malcolm Slovin is vice president for EM&I, which offers innovative solutions in the areas of strategy, governance and engineering.