Many many institutions large and small return from the summer break to a frantic quarter looking at the budget for the following year. Sometimes I am stunned at how unprepared departments and managers are for this annual event.
Here we go with another organisational analogy, this time, visualising your organisation as being a house made of LEGO.
Typically, there should be large rectangular bricks underlying the business structure as a foundation. The finance systems for example, the payroll, and even the IT infrastructure services, can be visualised as long oblong bricks at the bottom of the value chain, the structure upon which the rest is built. However, it is amazing how often this structure is full of gaps, holes and misalignments. These problems lie in various sections of the business, whether specific locations, parts of the process, or product areas. Naturally, without a solid underpinning foundation, the business will have issues. Like a child building a LEGO house without looking at the instructions, the result may be rather shaky if not collapse entirely. Do you know whether or not your business structure has a solid foundation?
Following on from my last post about getting funding for your strategy, I am going to explore one of the big barriers to approval that you can face.
Strategy plans will often involve some kind of consolidation process; whether it be centralising a common service, or realigning architecture processes. This can often run into what I call the allocation conundrum. Typically, different areas in a business, whether departments or locations, will receive a cost allocation for the IT services they consume. In terms of technologies and their champions, winners and losers will emerge from every consolidation programme; there will always be risk-takers and risk-adverse parties in any organisation. Where the challenge comes, is in handling the costs. The last remaining customer cannot be expected to carry the cost allocation of the whole service.
We have talked a fair amount about the planning side of building a strategy, but what about the funding?
It is not much use having a wonderful vision without at least some execution capacity, and that means hard cash. Any CIO or Project Manager will know, extracting money from a tight fisted Board with conflicting priorities is never easy, and grandiose plans do not always convince. I believe there are a number of things that you can do to help this process along.
In my previous blog entry, I discussed the need to make time for creating an IT strategy. I have also discussed the need for balance between free, unstructured thinking, and structured analysis. Brainstorming all the possible approaches is a great start, but how should you structure these thoughts into a workable plan with measurable results?
Clearly, in a short blog post it is impossible to set out all the detailed methods that can be used to drive a strategy but I hope this is a useful overview for non-practitioners and a useful reminder to the strategists amongst readers.
Another nod to one of the well-listened-to tracks of my student days, but an interesting introduction to some thoughts on the challenges of today’s CIO.
The song starts:
“Even in the quietest moments I wish I knew what I had to do…”
Now, I am sure there are more than a few CIOs who would wish for a few quiet moments, and still more who wish they could predict what they had to do with accuracy.
What is clear is that CIOs (and therefore also CEOs) are facing ever more challenges of increasing complexity. The entry on this blog this week speaks of quite a number, and still more are discussed in our growing list of previous entries on this blog. For those facing up to the challenges of the IT marketplace today, it is essential that time is taken to examine the trends out there, and engage them actively within an overarching strategy. Sadly, too many executives are too busy fire fighting the challenges of delivering their current projects or ongoing service commitments, to be able to pro-actively plan ahead.
Those who know me would probably say I am a top-down decision man. In many ways this is true, but anyone who has run strategy decision projects or programmes will concur that any top-down decision is only as good as its bottom-up validation. Getting this balance right is critical to the strategic processes in organisations. We all know of strategies and programmes that have failed because the top-down decision was never validated, and the initial feel was way too optimistic. We all know of decision making processes that have been stymied because the fact collection process has become endlessly drawn out, meaning that decisions never get made. So, how do you achieve the correct balance?
For those of you who have the same, rather bad, taste in music as me you might remember the Supertramp album from the 1970s with this title, referring to a man staying cool in a crisis.