How can bringing business sponsors and IT expertise together ensure that change initiatives are set up for success?

The fast-paced nature of business change means that more and more business change initiatives have a significant IT component. More often than not, business people sponsor the change initiatives, not the IT projects related to them.

Ultimately, projects are set up to deliver a specific outcome and the sponsor is accountable for realising those outcomes across all streams of the project. This accountability includes IT deliverables within the project.

So what are the challenges that a business sponsor needs to consider when their projects have an IT component and how should they select the best team to set the project up for success?

Best Practice: Who is the Right Sponsor?

Best practice suggests that the sponsor for most projects is the person who owns the most benefits the project is designed to deliver. Where that is not clear cut, then the alternative would be to consider the person whose organisation is most impacted by the change.

Project sponsors are typically supported by other key representatives in the business – normally a steering committee – whose organisations are either impacted by the change or who will actively contribute to the changes.

In many instances, a senior IT representative will have a seat at the table, assisting the business sponsor with the project’s technical scope and challenges.

The Importance of a Single Project Manager

The role of the Project Manager in delivering business projects is a vital one, so selecting the right person and defining the scope of their role is critical for the sponsor.

As project specialists, Quay subscribes to the philosophy that there should only be one project manager on any given project and their role is to plan, monitor and control the delivery of the full scope of the project on behalf of the sponsor.

This means active management of both the business change and the IT contribution required to enable the change. The various streams, including IT, can and should have leads where appropriate but the final responsibility to deliver the overall outcomes should rest with a single project manager.

Bring IT into the Tent

IT, by its nature, is full of specialists and specialists have their way of doing things that may or may not be in the best interest of the project’s business objectives. It’s important that the business sponsor sets up the project organisation structure to ensure that IT is in the tent.

The IT lead must report into the Project Manager as a team member irrespective of whether they are internal or a vendor. There can be a lack of context around the ultimate outcome of IT’s deliverables if they are left outside the main project team, because the best “IT solution” is not always the best business solution.

It’s an area that requires active debate and agreement and the business sponsor needs to ensure that IT is an active part of the project structure to minimise risk.

Collaboration between IT and the Business

As the IT landscape morphs more and more into a “Service” based environment, IT will need to focus on integrating services to provide business process rather than developing bespoke software applications.

This shift, and a general demand for faster delivery has led to widespread adoption of agile project delivery. We all interpret the written word differently based upon our experiences – agile delivery allows discussion, visualisation, collaboration and rapid delivery to ensure what is needed matches what is delivered.

This means the business sponsor must put their best people together with the IT specialists to make the magic happen.

Don’t forget if they have a day job these competing demands need to be actively managed.

Projects Impact IT and End Users Alike

The business sponsor must remain cognisant of the fact that in addition to the business impact the project will deliver, there are also organisational and customer impacts.

As the project will impact IT, the sponsor must make allowance for the operational impact on IT to support the solution. In some cases, this may translate to additional IT head count and operational cost, which must be factored into the business case from the beginning to reflect the true total cost of ownership.

Ensure IT Endorse the Solution

Finally, it’s important that the business sponsor secures the endorsement of their organisation’s IT rule book to ensure the IT components of the project are complementary to the existing IT ecosystem.

This ensures that the business doesn’t unintentionally introduce new technology that is unsupported by IT and that a senior IT representative has endorsed any expenditure for the chosen solution. This doesn’t mean that the business shouldn’t introduce new technology but rather that collaboration between business and its IT team will likely yield a far better outcome for integration, adoption and support.

Due to the fast pace of business change Projects will increasingly have critical and more complex IT components that need to be managed.

Whilst it is not expected that business sponsors need to be IT specialists the above list, whilst not exhaustive, offers a good guide to some of the steps a business sponsor can take to ensure they achieve successful IT outcomes for their projects, no matter the complexity.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...