The Following is Part Two of a Two Part Article by Randy Weldon – Contributing Author to Project Management for Today. 

Part One of this article is available HERE

 Don’t just talk about Aligning IT with the Business – make it happen!

From a bottom-up viewpoint, and to augment the top-down input described in Part One of this article, it is important to hear and honor what the more detail-knowledgeable directors, managers, and other key subject matter experts think about the current situation as well as future opportunities for improvement and transformation.  To obtain this input, a series of common questions are asked and interactive activities are conducted in one-on-one interviews and workshops, respectively.  These sessions not only identify issues, needs, ideas, and opportunities, but they also engage a large number of stakeholders, both supportive ones and detractors.  When people feel they have had a say in the future directions and requirements, they are much more apt to be supportive.  Later, when I present the final Strategic IT Plan to management and others, I show a slide of all the people from whom we gained input.  Every time, I see the management people study the list closely.  They will ask questions, but it is very hard for them to openly challenge the ideas and inputs from not only all their management peers and themselves, but also from their own key people.

One additional input (possibly horizontal?) is IT’s research and knowledge regarding what is feasible and practical, based on technology trends, industry best practices, competitor capabilities and systems, vendor roadmaps, disruptive and innovative applications of new technologies, and other factors.

Now, all those inputs can be synthesized into groupings of related topics to identify a few key Programs, composed of the most important projects.  No management can relate to (or help prioritize) long lists of disparate technology-based projects, but they can comprehend and support 5-7 major Programs (or related groupings of Projects) with strategic benefits to the business.  Depending on the industry, some example Programs might include strategic initiatives such as:

  • One common global Transaction and Analytics backbone to integrate all end-to-end business processes, by implementing a new ERP system integrated with a Data Warehouse, User Analytics and Visualization.
  • One common Customer Experience platform to enhance our one-company image, including consolidated global websites, mobile apps, and CRM software.
  • One-Stop Shop personalized access to everything teachers and students need to do their functions efficiently and effectively (Virtual Learning Environment Portal).
  • One common Knowledge Management solution to minimize the impact of loss of institutional knowledge due to retiring workforce, including implementing an Enterprise Content Management System.
  • Enhanced Workforce Productivity and reduced costs through operational excellence and continuous process improvement plus process automation enablers.
  • IT Infrastructure Modernization to support the above strategic initiatives, including moving certain IT capabilities into the Cloud, strengthening cyber-security prevention, detection and mitigation, implementing greatly increased WAN, LAN and wireless bandwidth, etc.

You can visualize the impact of an Executive Summary with a small set of similar major imperatives appropriate to your industry. The detailed projects inside those initiatives are not necessary at this stage.

From that baseline set of major strategic Programs or consolidated Initiatives, a Roadmap diagram can be created which shows those categories (6 in the example above), with a set of say, 3-5 key projects under each one, scheduled over a three-year time horizon.  Even these 3-5 sub-projects may have other smaller related projects grouped into them.  This Roadmap diagram is not finalized until all the major programs and projects are estimated at a high level, in terms of resource requirements by skillset, and balanced out over the time horizon.  This high-level estimating and load-leveling exercise will probably be done in a software tool, or in a spreadsheet at a minimum.  Some projects will fall below the line, due to resource constraints and/or the business users’ capacity and readiness to absorb change.

If you execute a top-down and a bottom-up process as described above, you should experience excellent business involvement, alignment, buy-in, understanding and support for your Strategic IT Plan and Project Roadmap.

 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Randy Weldon

Randy Weldon

Contributing Author

I am a business-oriented IT Executive, Consultant, Program Manager and Business Architect, having served as CIO twice, Director three times, and Consultant (Big 4 and my own company). I love to work with business and IT professionals to understand and help enable their strategies, value streams, capabilities, processes, and needs. Then I help create and implement Strategic IT Plans, Global Program/Project/Product Roadmaps and Governance Processes, Business/Data/Application Architectures, Performance Metrics, Programs and Projects, and other transformational initiatives.
My wife, two grown "kids", and new granddaughter are my joys in life. I love the mountains: fishing, horseback riding, hiking, skiing, and camping.

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