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.
The value of architecture is in providing structure across people, process, information, and technology so that they operate together to deliver business value. So much of the work being done in the field focuses on software, hardware, and infrastructure that architecture becomes little more high-level systems design. When this happens, business value gets lost. The results are easy to see in many organizations: Business stakeholders find IT irrelevant if not incomprehensible, and they disengage from architecture and implementation activities. At the same time, IT leaders find themselves supporting an unnecessarily complex integration environment and applications that are used in ways that they were not intended. To the extent that architects and technology leaders can impact all of the components of a business capability, not just technology, they will become vehicles for moving beyond frustration and cost focus. In this role they will be empowered to drive much more meaningful value to their organizations and customers.
Every executive who has lived through even a moderately complex business capability implementation program is familiar with the challenges to successful delivery. Many, if not most, of them have scars to show for it. However, despite overwhelming evidence and past defeats, organizations and executives regularly move their programs toward failure. The is no secret formula for success, nor is there a “silver bullet” that if only applied would solve all key program challenges. However, although resolution of fundamental issues may be very difficult, the initial steps are straight forward. They don’t require proprietary methodologies or tools, and they amount to identifying key risks, creating mitigation plans and following through on the execution. Nothing will eliminate risks. The key for executives who are serious about success is to develop excellence in the fundamentals of program leadership, including honestly and meaningfully addressing the obstacles before them.