No team has more potential to improve
company performance than IT.
Gartner found that three out of four CEO’s don’t think the IT department understands their business, and three out of four employees don’t think IT adds anything that helps them do their jobs. Not exactly a ringing endorsement!
Our customers have spoken. Most IT departments don’t have a good grasp on what their business counterparts need or are trying to do. Business-people blame IT for that failure—and they definitely have a point—but recent neuroscience discoveries have revealed it’s not all IT’s fault. The business plays a role in that failure too.
If we’re ever going to solve the rampant problem of IT project failures, and help the IT department realize its promise as being the one group within an organization with the greatest potential to improve overall company performance, then we’re going to have to dispel some myths, break some bad habits, and replace them with scientifically valid, battle-tested methods that actually work.
We’ve got those methods. Our mission is to share them. It’s time to bridge business and IT.
3 out of 4 IT project failures happen for one reason.
When ‘what you’re trying to do’ is in question, ‘what you need to build to accomplish that mission’ is impossible to answer. That’s why failures to communicate what the business is trying to do, why it’s important, who’s going to do the work, and how that work is going to be managed, tracked and evaluated cause 75% of all IT projects failures. That’s also why we take a different approach—one that goes back to basics to answer those questions.
We believe that business is all about execution. Whether you build a product or deliver a service, you move a ‘ball’ from Point A to B as fast and efficiently as you can to generate profit. That sounds like a linear exercise—it’s not. Execution is a cycle with four phases. Workers do the work. Managers organize and schedule it. Analysts compile performance data. And executives evaluate and refine the process to do better next time.
The only reason to implement technology is to improve your ability to execute, but you have to understand that entire cycle before you can even begin.
Historically, there’s not been a good framework for understanding the execution cycle. Now there is!
'Silent Requirements' cost US companies $400 Billion a year.
It’s been called a communication problem. It’s actually a function of silence. It’s all the things the business knows that they forget to share, all the questions the tech team never knows to ask, and all the assumptions they both make but never confirm. These ‘silent requirements’ are the problem.
Research by the IEEE and others has shown that roughly half of all IT staff time is spent fixing issues that could, and should, have been done right the first time. They’ve also found that it’s anywhere from 36 to 100 times more expensive to fix a bug after the fact than to catch it up front. Projects that limp into production but require constant rework waste $400 Billion a year. Projects that fail out right only waste $100 Billion. In light of these findings, adopting an attitude of, “we’ll fix it later” can only be described as financial idiocy.
Until now, there hasn’t been a quick and easy way to uncover a project’s silent requirements. Now there is, and we’ll give it to you for free. Click here to download our white paper and toolkit to bridge business and IT. Or, click here to schedule a free consultation.
What have you got to lose?
If understanding what the business is trying to do
is the foundation of an IT project, and most foundations fail,
Our perspectives on project requirements are shaped by our backgrounds and focus. People unconsciously gravitate to what they know and do. There’s nothing malicious about that. As neuroscience has recently shown, it’s how the human brain is wired.
Technical people ask about the number of records, transaction volumes, modules, forms, and fields that will be required. All of those are perfectly valid details that the system will need to address at a micro-level.
Businesspeople ask about what the business is trying to do, why doing that is important, who will do the work, how it needs to be managed, how performance will be measured and evaluated, and how things might change. Those are perfectly valid strategies that the system will need to enable at a macro-level.
Those perspectives are equally important. The former provides detail. The latter provides context. One can’t work without the other, and therein lies the problem. We’re getting the details but we’re missing the context because the technical people building these systems don’t know—and aren’t thinking—about the business questions they need to ask to establish that context.
Tech teams aren’t trained to ask business questions. Business schools don’t even teach students to think in terms of overall business context. They teach disciplines as individual silos, not as integrated systems. Everybody assumes that project governance models address this void, but as we’ll see below, they don’t.
We’re missing the business context. That’s why our project foundations fail.
Having studied this problem as a group, from virtually every perspective, for a total of over 300 years, we’ve not only recognized this pattern of failure, we’ve developed and validated a solution. Our mission is to share it, and to the extent we can, we’ll share it for free.
The process required to run software projects is different
from the one required to understand business.
The Project Management Institute (“PMI”) publishes the globally recognized gold standard for project management, the Project Management Body of Knowledge or “PMBOK”. The PMBOK embodies the best practices of the profession in 49 processes. Process 5.2, Collect Requirements, is unarguably one of, if not the most important as it directly or indirectly impacts virtually every other process. An accurate assessment of business requirements is the foundation on which the definition of the project’s scope, schedule, budget, task list, resource requirements, risks, communications and stakeholders rests. If that foundation is bad, everything other part of the project will be as well.
As useful as the PMBOK is, it has one limitation—it’s generic. It’s designed to be used in any industry. When it comes to collecting requirements, the PMBOK suggests many ways a practitioner can asks questions, but it never tells them what questions they need to ask. It just assumes they know. Agile methodologies are comparably vague.
Given the failure rates of of enterprise IT projects, it’s rather obvious that most practitioners don’t know the business questions they need to ask. Further, their faith in the ability of project governance models alone to adequately address business requirements is misguided.
As we said before, the business context is missing. Something different and additional is required to define that context.
Having managed enterprise IT projects as a group for over 300 years, we not only know the limitations of governance models, we know how to address the piece they’re missing. Our mission is to share that information and we’ll do it for free.
Neuroscientists have also discovered
that humans don’t control their thoughts and actions.
Beyond what we’ve already mentioned, there are some other neuroscience discoveries that help explain the challenges we face bridging business and IT. Foremost among these is that humans remember things in stories. Unfortunately, these stories are not precise accounts. They’re high-level summaries that are riddled with errors.
When a project team member interviews a SME to learn what a business process requires, a miscommunication usually follows that would be comical if it weren’t so detrimental to the project. The SME conveys the inaccurate and truncated story they’ve internalized about that process—unconsciously overlooking critical details the tech team needs. The interviewer errantly assumes the SME, being the process expert, has accurately communicated everything required.
Armed with what IT believes to be the complete requirement, they code to that specification—only to be stunned upon delivery by the client’s criticism of a system that doesn’t do all that needs to be done. Arguments and accusations ensue with each side deriding the other as incompetents who have no idea what they’re doing. If any of this sounds familiar, we have your solution.
The details of the process the SME unconsciously omitted were not permanently lost—just temporarily misplaced. The SME still has the details buried deep in their memory. They just need help excavating those memories. We have the toolkit to recover that information, and if you’d like a copy, it’s yours for free.
Apollo had millions of parts that had to work perfectly.
NASA knew the moon shot was too big for any person or team to get their heads around. So they figured out exactly what they had to do to get to the moon and back safely. They broke each objective down into interim steps that had to be successfully completed before proceeding. They turned the entire project into a checklist to be sure they executed each step correctly. Then at every step along the way they checked those lists to make sure they’d done everything right.
They didn’t trust their memory. They didn’t trust their communications. They didn’t trust their assumptions. Some of the smartest people on the planet didn’t trust themselves—because they knew they couldn’t and the costs of failure was too high.
Really smart people acknowledge their limitations and create guardrails to accommodate behaviors that no one can control. Fools pretend they don’t have any limitations and charge headlong over cliffs.
Sadly, it appears that many have forgotten this lesson. We’d like to refresh their memory, and to the extent that we can, we’ll do it for free. Click here to schedule a free consultation.