Why Process Improvement Is Critical For IT Project Success

Adastra ConsultingChange PlanningWhy Process Improvement Is Critical For IT Project Success

Technology is expanding from its traditional role as a back-office enabler into becoming key to creating a digital user experience with expectations of fundamental business changes. If you ask business leaders ‘what’s there most pressing organisational issue’, 99% of the time the answer is ‘they are working with outdated technology’.  No matter what the size, companies are constantly looking to increase productivity, efficiency, and performance. Naturally, the implementation of new technology can accomplish that. However, as the ongoing push for efficiency meets the new reality of ‘every business becoming a software business’, many companies are struggling to find the right approaches to help them cope. You don’t have to rebuild your business from the ground up – there’s some kernel of merit that’s allowed you to enjoy success thus far. You just, need to understand how technology affects your business (for better or worse) and how to apply advancements in order to play them to your advantage. After all, you would not automate a poorly designed process in a system, in the first place.

Adopting new technology, overhauling existing IT systems, or, designing better digital services is not easy. In fact, if there is one way an organisation can lose a bundle of money quickly, it is in the failed implementation of a technology project. As with any initiative, problems frequently occur. Technology projects are particularly risky because of the number of variables, and there is often pressure, to push them through quickly, even when resources like budget, staff and time are scarce.

But many companies jump from a cursory look at “people” directly to the “technology” in their implementations. Still, other organisations just start with technology, hoping for a quick, out-of-the-box fix to their service management challenges. Delegating the responsibility for selecting new systems to ‘experts’ that understand the technology and the risks, but don’t have the business knowledge to ensure the technology delivers on business need. This can lead to project scope or, delivery expectations to be lost in translation between the implementation team and the business. It may be that adopting out-of-the-box functionality works for some clients, or, it could result in them losing their competitive advantage. Often times, the company finds out too late that the technology did not deliver the intended business benefit or, was over engineered.

Technology is not just about automating processes, it needs to involve ‘what’ you do and ‘why’ you do it.  What we call technology is usually engineering into the service of business (human centred design for efficiencies of scale). There is no cookie-cutter method of selecting the right technology investment. In fact, there is an increased chance of failure if, the selection process ignores the business outcomes that need to be addressed or, the risks of over engineering a solution.  Each situation must be assessed on its own merits based on business need and goals. And then, once the spectrum of technology choices has been expanded, to strategically choose the right tool for the right circumstance.

The best way to implement new technology is to first address the ‘people’, then develop ‘processes’, and then put into operation the ‘technology’. Companies need to design the solution around how ‘people’ work to get the most out of the investment and reduce risk of project failure. This means engaging ‘people’ in map ‘process’ to understand how things work, what activities are crucial to daily operations, and the organisational themes creating roadblocks that can be improved.

Process improvement is a science that uses sophisticated tools and techniques to systematically introduce and embed changes to service delivery. An important aspect of process improvement is the use of accurate and powerful measurement tools to make sure business outcomes are improving as a result of the change. It is easy to see when a business seeks to improve products, services, or, processes why a business would map their process. Yet, you cannot put into operation a new technology without first understanding the business and quality improvement issues that need to be addressed. Some companies in an effort to save on staff, time and cost skip the As-Is analysis, instead preferring to map processes as they should be. Causing delivery expectations to get lost in translation between the IT project team and business.  Costing them far more in the long run – where potential issues got missed until much later – where they will have a greater impact.

It is widely accepted that a company’s knowledge of their processes gives people the courage not only to weather change but, to embrace it with enthusiasm. Teams that clearly understand the process in context can spot problems and improvements more easily. Whenever you roll out a process change of any significance that impacts people – be it positively or negatively – they need time to absorb the change and become engaged to the new way. New technology and platforms are not the end goal; they are a way to make your team more efficient.

The proven case is that investing the time to understand and improve business processes – makes all the difference in the later success of the change. What some companies still fail to recognise is that their secret sauce is its processes and how they work (or, want to work) either underpins their success, or, it can be the weight that drags you down and kills your efficiency, profitability, and ability to grow.

Process improvement and new technology implementation go hand in hand. Business flow mapping is essential to set up any business or, technology change initiative for success. It provides a step-by-step understanding of the processes required to run a business – how each process is currently accomplished today ‘as-is’ and how ideally operate in the future ‘to-be’.

 

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