Tag Archive: IT mangement

When IT is a Service function

I’ve been very quiet for the last year as I have been working at 3 different clients who were all undertaking significant pieces of work in the heavily regulated utility sector. One was vertical and the other two were in the water sector.

One thing that these organisations all have in common is that they view the provision of delivery of IT as a service function and as a result, they all have “Strategic Partnerships” with external firms mainly based offshore. Unlike other sectors who seem to keep some functions in-house, these have gone the whole hog and handed it all over.

Service Function or intellectual Property

Whilst this has a very good effect on the bottom line, in terms of costs, and understanding what you will need to spend on your IT, it does leave you exposed in terms of intellectual property. The whole logic behind partnering is for the provider to offer the commodity skills that the organisation deems as not a core competency. This may have been a good approach in the past but now that IT is so fundamental to an organisation it is now actually intellectual property.

One of the major side effects of this “promotion” of IT to be central to the business is that if you come to try and change your “partner” it becomes a very high risk and fraught with danger which could, in fact, lead to business damage both financially and reputationally.

I have worked in organisations that have been crippled by this type of transition and it has taken months for them to get anywhere near to business as usual.

Another observation I can make is that without the level of investment in IT you can become very old fashioned and behind your competitors very quickly. This would help explain the amount of “disruption” that many traditional industries are encountering in recent years.

I am convinced that there needs to be a complete mindset change within senior IT management roles to ensure that they become thought and business leaders and not seen as a subordinate service provider.

The interesting Paradox is that a lot of the “Strategic” partnership organisations should be the ones that take the lead and help the legacy organisation change and drive IT forward, however, this potentially means cannibalising their current revenue streams they receive from supporting the old way.

I have been in the industry now for over 30 years and am still excited about what IT (Technology) can do for businesses. In the 80’s and 90’s we radicalised things with ERP systems. In the 2000’s it was the rise of the Internet. In the 20-teens it’s been the rise of the App and big data. If the old way of thinking maintains then a lot of the organisation that exist today will not be around in the next decade due to looking at technology as a service function.


battery project managersBattery Project Managers

As an independent Project/Programme Management consultant who works with some of the largest corporates in the world I get to see the current acceptable practices in operation. An alarming trend I have spotted for some time is the rise of the “Battery Project Manager”.

The Battery project Managers sit in clusters with other Battery Project Mangers and manage their project from afar as an academic exercise. There I no interaction with the business and no understanding of what the actual project is trying to achieve.

Its all about the process

They follow process without regard to what it is they are doing. They use so called “enterprise tools” to report up and enact the latest edict without challenge.

 Issues and risks go into logs and are tracked mechanically and updated when requested. Status reports are completed on time as dictated by the PMO (The Programme Management Office).

There is no real distinction between a PMO analysts and a Battery Project Manager, in its worst manifestation Project Managers are subordinate to the analyst.

As you can tell from the article I am not overly impressed with what I see with this trend. Project management is a people game and requires interactions with others to be successful.

Its people that make projects a success not the process. Anyone can blindly follow a process but the real magic happens when you start questioning why things are done in a certain way.

Project Failures?

I am convinced that this trend is the reason why we see examples in the news of “glitches” with Bank systems or mobile phone systems not been available for hours. People who bear the scars of projects over the years know where the pitfalls are and where to look for likely problems.

If you haven’t been at the coalface it’s difficult to see what may happen.

I personally believe that the Project Management profession is at a crossroads between the entrepreneurial (free range) Project Managers and the Battery Project Managers.

I know if it was my business what I would want is to have project managers who focused on the content and not the process.


Using the riight words is so importantChoose Words Well

When you are a Manager imparting information on a project you need to be extremely careful on the words you use to make sure that you convey authority and knowledge of the situation.

How many times do you hear Managers use the words “hopefully”; “probably”; “I think” and other weak words and phrases to get over the status or issues.

Most recipients of this type of response will pick up on these words and start questioning the status and the manager’s credibility and knowledge of the subject.  If you say that “hopefully a date will be met”, are you actually saying we are in danger of missing that date?

As with nearly everything you do with Management you need to concentrate on the presentation of the content not just the content. If you don’t know the current status of an item it is better to say “I do not know the answer to A, but I will get it for you by y” than “I think it is B, but I am not sure – let me check”.

The first example shows that you will go and get the definitive answer where as the second is a guess and then a reconfirmation.

As with most things we do it is all down to preparation; preparation; preparation when getting ready to issue a communication.

Assertive Words

You should try and put yourself in the recipients shoes and see what type of questions they are likely to ask and make sure that you use the correct type of words that reinforce action and assertiveness.

Even if you are having a weekly meeting don’t turn up without doing any preparation, its when you wing it that you start using the vague terminology I outline above.

Early in my career I would never prepare before meetings and thought no problem I can make it up as I go. That when you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when asked a question you know full well you should have the answer at your finger tips.

I now prepare even for the briefest meeting to install the confidence in people that I am in control and know what I am doing. I avoid all the wishy-washy words mentioned above as well as others.

I also regularly prepare an update that I have in my back pocket for those times when you are cornered in the lift (the elevator pitch) or to and from your car.

Everything we do in Project and Programme management is related to people, people want us to do things, we need people to do things and so on, therefore we need to make sure that we present an image that we know what we are doing and are in total control of the situation.

The way we display that control and confidence to others is by using words so make sure we use them well.

As an exercise why not comment below with words you feel should be avoided when talking to stakeholders and others.

Here is your starter for 10 – should; might; possibly; hopefully,  could,

IT not a support functionSupport Function – The History

One of the enduring debates within the corporate world is that IT is a support function in the same way that Finance or HR are. This is something I contend is no longer true in any modern business. You certainly don’t here of any businesses that are gaining market share on the back of being able to do their accounts quicker or more efficiently than others.

Back in the day when everyone was rushing to implement first generation ERP systems and improve the transaction base of the business this was probably true. These systems enable businesses to get in control of the nuts and bolts of the business and put order in place.

At first these were differentiators and businesses that were first to market could gain improved share and business based on these improvements. Generally productivity increased and cost saving were made. However they were very much the automation of the back office.

Over time most companies moved to some level of ERP and the field was levelled.

Then the push was for Data Warehousing which eventually became BI (Business Intelligence). This provided businesses with a means of understanding themselves and their markets in ways that had never been thought of before. This was the point at which the paradigm changed and IT became more of a partner with the business.

Support Function – The Future

In the 21st century businesses can no longer survive without great IT and in many instances the IT is what differentiates certain businesses from others. Being able to react to markets and customers quickly is now the way to gain market share.

However as this change has progressed there are still many cases where people in the business perceive IT as a Master/Slave relationship. They still talk about IT as if it is a bunch of geeks in the basement who love to code, understand the technology but not the business.

These dinosaurs need to be convinced of the benefits of IT and made to see that the world has changed. In order to do this the IT department need to up their game and prove to these sceptics what they have to offer.

It is up to senior IT management to sell the ideas and offerings of the department to the business. To challenge when necessary and offer alternatives and ideas to the business leaders.

We are entering a time where the technology opportunities are increasing constantly and as IT professionals we need to consider these technologies and see how they can help our businesses grow not just follow instruction. How can the tablets and other future technologies be deployed to the business to give advantage?

An old boss of mine always used to say you need to “walk in the steps of the business man” to understand what he needs and then provide it. This is more important than ever and we should be partnering (equally) with the business when ever we can. Once we do that then IT will not longer be perceived as a support function and a slave to the business.