Adopting a Best Practice in IT Requires Effort if You Expect to Achieve a Return
IT organizations usually take part in strategic planning sessions on an annual basis. They also create their own strategic plan. It helps them to accomplish the many objectives that are required to support the business needs of the company. Many times, this strategic plan is the impetus for implementing a best practice.
Ask any executive why they decided to use best practices such as ITIL, DevOps, SIAM, Lean, etc. and you will hear about how they needed to improve their effectiveness, tear down silo’s within their teams, reduce costs, etc. All of the results were needed to support the strategic plan for the business. Follow up with a question asking if they achieved the outcome they were looking for after they implemented the best practice and most likely, you will hear about disappointing or somewhat mixed results.
If the implementation of a best practice underpins a strategic initiative, why do so many best practice implementation efforts fail to yield the expected return? Does this mean the company’s strategic initiative fails because of IT?
The Importance of Having a Vision
For a best practice to achieve the return that is expected, it needs to be successfully adopted as a way of working. The IT staff need to believe it will benefit them and the company. The leadership and staff that are determining the course of action for best practice adoption need to have a vision for the future that everyone can understand. The vision for best practice adoption defines what the organization should achieve by using the new practices. It becomes the “true north” for anyone in the organization that is making a decision regarding the initiative.
Without a vision, the actions of managers and staff often fail to align with the original intent of the initiative. ITIL, DevOps, IT4IT, SIAM, Lean, etc. –Your IT staff will see them as the “flavor of the month” as they are unable to understand what the IT organization is trying to accomplish. It will just be one more task on their “to do” list.
A vision for best practice adoption sets broad direction. It stresses the value of the best practice. It should inspire people and serve as a guide for all decision making. It should be linked to the overall organization achieving its’ business objectives. It should help the IT staff understand how their work connects to the larger organization’s purpose.
Why You Need a Strategy to Achieve Your Vision for Best Practice Adoption
The vision helps staff understand the aspiration of IT when they are adopting best practices but how do you achieve the vision? It can seem very daunting especially when staff do not have experience with a best practice. For staff with experience, often the complexities of the organization and the day to day operations are enough to stop them in their tracks.
A strategy is needed to provide guidance on how you are going to achieve the vision. There are many different courses of action available to reach the destination defined by the vision. Which options are right for your organization given the business objectives, organizational constraints, risks, other issues, and opportunities that exist? By defining the path to reach the vision for your best practice initiative, you are further delineating what needs to be considered when making a decision and allocating resources.
A strategy is not a project. The strategy provides perspective on how you go from the existing state to the destination that was identified in the vision. Strategy sets the course to achieve the vision. The actions that are defined based on the strategy will often form the basis for projects.
Will a Vision and Strategy be Enough to Deliver Results?
A vision and strategy alone will not deliver the intended results but they are foundational. As noted above, the strategy will set the stage for additional actions. Projects are usually created to support the strategy.
In addition, IT should focus on how to help the IT staff and customers adopt the new best practice.
The best practice needs to become the “new normal” that guides the behavior of the entire IT team. Focusing on implementation of the strategy or the actions associated with the strategy will not change behaviors. Implementation focuses on the fulfillment of a particular set of requirements. When the requirements are fulfilled, the implementation is considered complete.
Adoption of a best practice is very different than the implementation of a best practice. Adoption focuses on influencing the attitudes and behaviors of the staff so the use of the best practice is not considered a requirement that needs to be fulfilled. It becomes a new way of working that the staff can’t live without.
Organizational change is often a strategy associated with the vision but is also needs to be a component of every project that is initiated to support the strategy. The focus is the adoption of the best practice rather than merely implementing the best practice.
Why did the Company’s Initiative Succeed Even Though the Best Practice Initiative in IT Failed?
Corporate level initiatives are generally large and complex. The journey to accomplishing these initiatives is often adjusted along the way to compensate for challenges in various areas. Even if the best practice initiative in IT doesn’t yield the expected results, the corporate initiative will most likely succeed but it won’t be at the level that was possible if IT had delivered the expected return. The results are diminished.
Delivering Results from Best Practice Adoption Requires Effort
By now, most of corporate America knows the statistics that 70% of projects fail to deliver the expected results. This research has been conducted numerous times over the past 20 years. Focusing on the adoption of best practice by IT staff and customers and taking steps to set the right course by defining a vision and strategy will help IT to beat the odds.
Developing a vision and strategy are key to helping the team understand what is expected and they provide guardrails for decision making. By further developing an organizational change strategy and plan for best practice adoption, IT will be six times more likely to achieve the expected return on investment and if the best practice is linked to a corporate strategy, IT will be supporting a much stronger result for the broader organization.
Strong business results, greater efficiency, higher employee engagement, increased customer and employee satisfaction, and lower costs are all potential results from IT adopting best practices. Achieving these results requires some extra effort but IT and the broader organization will reap the rewards.
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