Last week, I talked about some of the reasons why large organizations often reject the best solutions for a troubled IT project: fear, pride, budget, and the ever-present internal politics. This week, as promised, I will talk about what it takes to champion the right solution. I can’t guarantee that you’ll succeed, but you will have a better shot at it.
First, let me lead off with one of my favorite quotes, taken from The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli:
And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. (The Prince, Chapter VI)
If you don’t think that quote applies to organizational politics in general, and to large IT projects in particular, think again. Few efforts within an organization are more political than large IT projects because so many groups have direct or indirect interests in how it turns out. That includes: upper management; business managers who plan to leverage the new IT system; business managers who have no need of – or are even threatened by – the new IT system; end users (new or transitioned) of the new system; the MIS staff that will have to support the new system; the vendors (if any) involved in the old system; the vendors (if any) involved in the new system; the developers who are building the new system; and even all the developers who are not building the new system.
Think about all those groups within your organization, then go back and read the quote above again.
See what I mean?
So, if in the midst of all that turmoil, you honestly believe that the new IT system faces serious challenges and that you know at least in part what the solutions are – but the powers that be don’t want to use them – there are, in my experience, three things you need to do in order to accomplish this change: establish credibility; build consensus upwards; and prepare to be fired.