Best Practices: A Business-First Approach to IT

At some point, likely inthe very near future, your organization will have to implement a technologyupgrade. Often, these upgrades become monumental tasks that consume asignificant portion of your organization?s time and resources?resources thatare normally reserved for the daily operation of your business.

Dueto the time-consuming and complex nature of upgrades and migrations, the mainpriority often becomes installing the new technology with as few disruptions tooperations as possible. ?Just get through it? develops into the silent mantra.But this approach misses a key element that should occur before an upgrade: anevaluation of why you are implementing the technology in the first place.

Everyday, I work with organizations that operate on autopilot. I?ve seen businessesthat have been using the same enterprise software programs for years withoutreally understanding how the technology can benefit the enterprise. It?s likebuying a Ferrari without ever driving faster than 10 miles per hour.

I?vealso seen organizations attempt to use every bell and whistle that a newtechnology has to offer, when they actually need only a few features. With thisapproach, it?s not long before employees become overwhelmed and eventually stopusing the technology altogether.

Thebest way to unite technology and business goals is to define what you aretrying to accomplish at the organizational level and then drill down to see howtechnology can play a role in helping you reach the organizational goals?notthe other way around. It may be tempting to start with the technology side ofthe equation, but the reality is that an upgrade or migration is not just atechnology issue. In fact, it is not just a business issue, either. It?s both.

Uppermanagement?s lack of involvement is often the main reason for the disconnectbetween IT goals and organizational goals. So you need to foster buy-in fromall the stakeholders and end users. Without their support and buy-in, theimplementation is doomed to be a failure.



Touncover your essential business needs and goals, start by asking, ?What problemor business opportunity do we want to address?? Any technology must beaccompanied by a business case that clearly outlines how that technology willprovide quantifiable organizational benefits by solving a problem or helpingthe enterprise reach its objectives.

Don?tfall victim to vague goals, such as ?increase productivity,? ?improvecollaboration? or ?streamline document management.? These requirements maysound good on the surface, but they will result in few measurable gains unlessthey are further defined.

Bettercollaboration is a great goal, but what does it mean in terms of dollars andcents? Start by finding your organization?s pain points and then determinewhich technologies will address them directly.



Onceyou have established the business objectives, the task of choosing the righttechnology is simplified. The objectives make it easy to rule out technologiesthat don?t directly address your business needs, and they help home in ontechnologies that can.

Don?tget distracted by too many bells and whistles, and try to use out-of-the-boxtechnology whenever possible. Add third-party add-ons only when needed, andcreate custom software only when necessary. Don?t deploy every featureavailable on a new technology unless your business case demonstrates a need forit.

Onceyou have chosen your technology, develop a business process map to ensureproper implementation. Most organizations miss the ?people? and ?process? partof technology. These enterprises give the green light to implement thetechnology, but they don?t plan who will do what or how it will be done.

Rememberto define the scope of the project to fit within your organization?s capacityfor change. Rationalize the solution to a level of complexity that canreasonably be accomplished.



Anenterprisewide technology rollout is as much about people as it is about thetechnology. For a technology rollout to be successful, a change managementstrategy must be put in place prior to rollout. This strategy should include agovernance definition, adoption plan, training plan and, most important, anunderstanding of the culture of your organization.

Ifstakeholders on both sides of the spectrum?at the executive level as well asthe end-user level?can understand how the technology you are proposing solves apain point, they will find value in leveraging that technology. However, keepin mind that this revelation doesn?t come without a change management strategy.


MikeTaylor is founder, president and CEO of Innovative-e, a business consulting,solutions and education company specializing in SharePoint technologies.