Create Multi

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-08-03 Print this article Print

At too many companies, technology managers aren't on the same wavelength with the top business executives. Here are 10 ideas for improving that dynamic.

-Disciplinary Teams for High-Priority Projects">

9. Create Multi-Disciplinary Teams for High-Priority Projects
One thing that can work for aligning I.T. with the business is to create teams to handle specific projects.

State Auto did this in the summer of 2006 when the company set out to sell more insurance to small-business owners. The problem was that independent insurance agents had no easy way of accessing State Auto's back-end systems. State Auto gave itself nine months to build a portal that would address that.

I.T. director Allen opted for an arrangement in which his developers were co-located with business analysts, project managers and quality assurance personnel. The physical proximity helped communication, making things like scope creep easier to manage, and the portal went live in State Auto's home state, Ohio, this past May.

Allen says it's too early to tell if the portal will increase State Auto's small-business sales, an area the company hasn't emphasized previously. But he is heartened that the initial product came out within a few weeks of its due date, and contained just 35 defects—very few for a project of this complexity. "I think we're going to see a more repeatable process so when we take on the next project, we've got a solid template" for how to get it done, Allen says.

Successful as an approach like this can be, it can also backfire if it is allowed to take root outside a company's approved enterprise architecture. "That's where you get all these silos," MIT's Ross says, speaking generally, not of State Auto's project. "It can make it hard to respond to the next set of requirements."

Next Best Practice: Think Beyond Mere "Alignment"


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