The ICT world is changing.
It is no longer about getting requirements, solutions, then build and deliver. It isn’t about the software development lifecycle, or even the best infrastructure. These are all still a part of this, but in the past ICT people have asked business units to pay for all of this. Business units don’t care about any of it, and why should they? They just want an outcome.
What Business Units do care about are the benefits and outcomes for their business. They want a return on whatever they invest. Simply put, they are only interested in outcomes, cost, risks, and how long they have to wait for it for the benefits they will get.
ICT is a function of the business.
In my many years of experience, I have constantly come across businesses where their business units and technology units are divided, and seem to go to battle with one another. This is simply a symptom that IT doesn’t understand what the business actually wants, and the business doesn’t understand what technology can do for them. As a senior ICT professional, my first and foremost goal is to listen to the business, what they think they want or need, and what causes them pain in getting their business goals to happen. More often than not, ICT professionals think they are either one step ahead of a business unit, or even worse, think they can take on the business and hold them to ransom. These are backward thinking approaches, particularly since it is generally a VERY bad idea to bite the hand that feeds you as an ICT professional.
A better way to deal with a business unit is to understand and listen to what they actually are trying to achieve. In doing so you will have a good understanding of what outcomes they are after, and are in a much better position to establish trust with them. It is amazing what just listening can do! After all, you are a partner of theirs, one they are willing to pay you to help. Why on earth would you do anything to jeopardise their trust? It is the only thing you can honestly give them that would ensure they continue to work with you.
In the older days of technology, it was all about ensuring the business requirements are fully understood before giving the business anything they can rely on. In some cases, that still applies today, but the time it takes to get a complete and unchanging set of requirements just simply goes against most business unit’s outcomes, which can also include the fasted time possible to get to market, even if a product or service isn’t yet ready.
A better way to deal with business units is to understand what they feel is their “minimal viable product”, and do everything you can to get this out there to make this achieve the fasted time possible to get to market. Many of the details can be worked out after they got to market, allowing for growth in their particular business sector. After all, first to market can usually become a market leader. Who are you as an IT professional to stand in the way of this, particularly since they are paying you for this initial outcome?
Enter Agile… I am not really a fan of agile, not because I don’t think in some circumstances it works very well to get to market faster, but moreso because it is really only best suited to small and controllable teams (which we all know isn’t all that common). Perhaps if the product/service was being developed by one team only, this can work very well, but if it isn’t, it becomes a project manager’s worst nightmare in trying to fit into the agile approach.
A better way to deal with all of this is to stop thinking that rework is either a bad or good thing, and start focusing on what the business unit want’s and the engagement with their customers. Stop thinking about colors, or animations, that make a user interface look spectacular, but rather on the interaction flow between the business unit and their customer. It might just make more sense that a simple SMS message from the business unit to the customer (or vice versa) might make a world of difference for the customer experience. Spend your time in the right place, and stop focusing on fancy websites, mobile apps, graphics, and everything else that just simply is a paint job on a car.
Enter the world of interaction based systems. These systems don’t focus on some fancy UI, database, or anything else. They just simply focus on the interactions between the customer, and business unit (and any other unit in the organisation). These are the types of systems that actually work for both the business and their clients. After all, wouldn’t it be better to book an appointment with a client (perhaps via their mobile), and when they arrive allow them to tell the business unit’s location they are there? This is far better than coming up with some fancy User interface, website, application or anything else, and can address perhaps a pain point that the business is experiencing, perhaps that they are losing market share because the appointment booking is just too complicated?
Start thinking like a client of the business unit, and start listening to both the client and provider. These are the only two people who actually matter regardless of technology. Perhaps in doing so, you might just land yourself another 20 paid projects as a result.
Keep it simple, and join the new way an ICT professional can actually help (and keep helping) their business unit. After all, any ICT involvement is simply a function of the business.