One of the greatest risks to strategic change is that executive attention moves on after the program is chartered. It is not enough for sponsors to develop strategy and then turn the program over to the implementers. However, when the focus is on tactical delivery, it is easy for leadership to move on to the next set of problems before sustained value is realized. To keep sponsors engaged, program leaders need simple, yet powerful ways to communicate the importance of executive engagement throughout the journey.
To execute programs that turn opportunity into real and sustained competitive advantage, organizations need more robust and nimble approaches to delivering change. High performing organizations shift their focus from methods and deliverables to guiding, motivating and aligning people. Successful change leaders develop cultures of accountability in which people feel responsible for doing everything they can to further strategic priorities. This kind of leadership is harder than implementing tools and processes. It may require learning and teaching new ways of working with people. New organizational forms may also be needed to encourage teams to work together instead of opposing each other.
Architecture provides a crucial link between business and technology capabilities, but it also helps bridge the gap between business and technology organizations. In my experience, everyone seems to agree that the two groups need to work more closely together; at least I don’t hear the suggestion that business owners should throw requirements over the wall and come back six months later for acceptance testing. However, this is not too far from what happens in practice, and the results are felt in many organizations regardless of function, industry, or maturity: IT effectiveness is hampered, business stakeholders are frustrated, and the gulf between business and IT grows until it seems that never the twain shall meet.
Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis write about technical managers vs. trusted executive leaders of the enterprise. Technical managers are experts in the mechanics of IT. They “keep the lights on and do it cheap.” This role is essential, especially in today’s environment of cost-cutting and rationalization of services. However, this role can also minimize the impact for good that technology can have on the organization. Increasingly, information and technology are the business, even in industries where IT has traditionally been on the sidelines. It is rare to have a business capability that is not driven by technology. Because of this, IT must be more than just the plumbing. Far beyond enabling the business, technology, when done right, can transform the enterprise and open up new and powerful ways of doing business.
The statistics on business transformation failure are overwhelming. For technology implementations in particular, and where the stakes may be highest, studies consistently report that over half (and up to three-quarters) of all programs will fail to meet stakeholder expectations. Caveats aside, though, one conclusion seems inescapable: something is fundamentally broken when program executive are unable to successfully execute on their business capability goals three out of four times. The consistent trend toward failure is a clear message that program leaders need to get serious about how they ensure the success of their efforts.