Balancing and aligning the objectives and actions of both business and IT is crucial to successful change and transformation

Stakeholder alignment across a transformation portfolio is fundamental to delivery success. A common feature in organisations struggling to effect transformation is an imbalance; a lack of alignment between the desire of business functions, and the capacity, capability, and direction of technical enablement. This blog will outline the dilemma, the elements of which we will then explore in subsequent articles.

Everyone needs to pull in the same direction

It is surprising, and also disappointing, how often agendas within organisations do not align. For transformation to be effective in improving business performance it is vital that the right capability gaps are addressed, and that the approach to closing those gaps is agreed, co-ordinated, and enabled. This may sound obvious, but it is far from unusual for IT strategy, which is vital for technical enablement of change, to be out of alignment with the business priorities for change. Even with ‘theoretical’ alignment, funding and governance need to be in place, otherwise the change engine soon runs out of fuel, or a battle for the steering wheel breaks out. This is why effective corporate (or cross-functional) change often requires CEO sponsorship if it is to succeed. Otherwise, ‘turf wars’ can break out when agendas and the operating model are not already aligned.

Ambition has to be balanced across business and IT

Even with alignment, consideration needs to be given to agreeing the pace of strategic change. This is like a three-legged race, the partners in change need to work at the pace of the slowest, otherwise there will be stumbles and falls. If this pace isn’t fast enough to address commercial urgency, then think about how delivery can be speeded up, but do not simply plan presumptively. We see many transformations falter because of careless, or ‘happy’ planning which has little basis in the reality of the organisation’s ability to change. Equally, in long transformations, the world can change, and crosswinds or headwinds develop. There is a need both to plan and to organise for appropriate pace, but also to allow for periodic course correction.

A joined-up view of the transformation is essential

Nowadays all significant strategic change is a blend of evolution in process, organisation, and technology. This raises two immediate needs. Firstly, any end-state design must involve good architecture of both the enterprise system and the operating model. The parts of the solution have to come together like the components of an engine, running smoothly and efficiently. This is not just about the solution design, just as importantly it’s about implementing and sustaining the change. The second challenge here is ‘how much?’, one of my colleagues often uses the phrase, ‘don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough’. Personally I am a big of fan of landing a viable solution early. That can then be improved, however, everyone needs to be aligned on this.

Focus on the destination, but keep monitoring the conditions ahead and around

We mentioned above the need to allow for course correction. Even well-planned change journeys come across unexpected hazards, and, if commercial or contextual headwinds do develop then resource may need to be re-focussed, or priorities changed. The facility to fine-tune direction and pace must be provided, and controlled, and ideally the organisation should be watching for these changes, not just responding to unexpected ‘bumps’.

What doesn’t work is an environment in which stakeholders with positional power can, in effect, march onto the factory floor and either change a specification, redirect resources, or re-tool and redirect a line, on a personal or functional whim. To reiterate, aligning agendas, and ensuring that they stay aligned, is vital.

Sustaining successful outcomes requires skills from across business and IT teams

Finally, given the mix of components within a solution, a similarly balanced business/IT team is required not only to deliver the right solutions but also to sustain the business outcomes. This expertise should include:

  • Individuals who understand the business in sufficient detail in order to define and establish the right quality requirements and solutions.
  • End-users to validate, champion, and help embed solutions.
  • Supporting leadership, governance and cross-functional organisation design that ensures that change enablement and benefit realisation are locked into, and aligned with, operating plans.

Tensions between business ambition and IT change capability often undermine transformations. Getting the right balance is essential to establishing a credible, achievable transformation.

At Project One, our teams have worked across various sectors and with many different transformation agendas, helping clients wrestle business and IT objectives and activities into balance. Are you happy that you have the balance right in your transformation portfolio – if not, why not talk to us? We can help.

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