LinuxWorld – Tackle business risks first, CIOs cautioned

CIOs who are serious about mitigating the risk of an IT projectgoing awry even before it takes off, should focus on business aswell as technical risks.

That was the message of consultants Jack Senechal and Sue Menardat Linux and Network World Expo being held at the Toronto MetroConvention centre this week.

In fact, according to Senechal and Menard, business processrisks are often far greater than technical ones. The two arepartners at Toronto-based consultancy firm Dijon Group. They werespeaking at a session titled: ‘Major solution implementation:beyond the technical.’

According to Senechal and Menard, business process risk has todo principally with the negative mind-set of staff in a companywhere a new project is being implanted.

This perspective prevents employees from accepting a new orimproved product. “Their most common argument is the new offeringis different and seemingly more complicated than the one they usedearlier,” said Menard.

She recounted how the director of admissions in a prominentCanadian university, refused to use an IT system at the last stageof the project as he found the new technology too complex. “In theend, another software application had to be used. This resulted inthe project cost increasing by an additional half-a-milliondollars. He did not want to learn anything new, but nobody tooknote of that until it was too late.”

According to Senechal, such disasters occur as most CIOs fail toassess business process hazards before starting a project. “Theemphasis,” he said, “remains on technical risks that are easilyidentified and rectified by the addition of hardware and software.Business process risks that deal with stakeholders are not easilyidentifiable. So they are ignored and this jeopardizes theproject.”

The sad truth, he said, is that even when stakeholders say theyare ready for the solution “when they rubber hits the road, theybalk.”

Senechal has a simple recommendation for avoiding suchunfortunate situations.

It includes communicating with employees at every level aboutchanges that the new technology will bring about.

Information technology by its very nature alters the waybusiness functions, he said, and ROI depends on the effectivenessof this transformation. “Project leaders have to make it clear toall concerned that the new system may not make their lives easierbut it will be more effective than the earlier, outdated one.”

Menard urges companies – before making any major IT investment –to review every business process to discover if the software willmatch the expectations of people using it. In this way, she said,potential dissatisfied users can be identified. “That way you canstart working on human brickwalls before rolling out the technicalstuff.”

She said companies have the option of hiring consultants thatspecialize in business process risk to do this work.

A group session between the business and IT side of project isthe next step. Senechal compared such sessions to marriage therapy.”The difference between what the business side hears, and what ITsays is similar to a husband and wife talking and listening in amarriage therapy session.”

Emphasizing right timing Menard said these sessions should beheld in the initial stages of the project.

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