Stop Measuring IT Projects

  • May 03, 2021
Good and Bad Barometer

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A couple years back I had the opportunity to work with the CIO of a national hotelier who told me this story:  

Each week he meets with his CEO and nothing out of the ordinary occurs. Until, one day when the CEO asks him what IT projects he and his team would like to work on. The CIO answers, “nothing”, telling the CEO that he doesn’t want to work on anything other than what the business needs. He then asks the CEO, “what does the business need and how can we support your initiatives?” The result of the conversation, he says, is a list of ways that IT can proactively support the CEO – and the business.

The lesson I think we can all take away from this story is that rather than focus on technology goals, the IT department should serve the objectives of the business, using technology to help achieve success. Yet, to successfully serve the business, IT must stop measuring projects the way it has historically done so. How do projects that are measured on how well they perform to a technology case, if they came in under budget and if they met the schedule--did it start and end on time--serve the business? Instead, IT should think of its work as more of a product that requires ongoing iterations.

The Cloud Journey 

You may hear the catchphrase journey to the cloud. Or I like talking to my clients about the DevOps journey. It's not a coincidence that the word journey is used. That's because it is a journey into the transformation, not a one-and-done project. Once a client moves into the cloud, it's an iterative experience. 

Moving into the cloud is the perfect time to introduce this paradigm shift because you look at things differently in the cloud as well.  So, as you migrate into the cloud, don’t think of it as an adoption exercise that’s finished once you have done the migration. Rather, when the migration is finished, I encourage you to think of it as a milestone on the journey. A journey where you invest in building skills and focus on continuous improvements that map to business objectives. 

Building a Cloud Practice

This evolutionary journey is the building of a cloud practice. I use the word practice here very intentionally. In his bestseller, “Outliers: The Story of Success”, Malcom Gladwell asserts that a good rule of thumb is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. While perhaps not universally true, it speaks to the levels of learning that happen when an organization commits to building and iterating in the cloud. 

I’m the Reason Your Coach Makes You Practice

In sports, you wouldn’t dream of hitting the field without hours of practice. Why? Because you’d be setting yourself up for failure. Yet, many organizations think nothing of one-and-done exercises that are exactly like suiting up for a big game with little to no pre-game practice. Similarly, a cloud practice provides a next level of iteration that frankly must be envisioned and built on because if you're not thinking about it, I guarantee that your competition is.  

We are already seeing this play out in the market. According to a recent NTT DATA and Longitude report that identified industry Leaders and Laggards, Leaders used technology to build business resilience and agility, adapting their products and services to customer needs and creating cost efficiencies. This practice allowed them to prepare for and adapt to changing situations – like the pandemic -- faster than the competition. In fact, according to the research, Leaders were significantly more likely to report an increase in revenue (63% vs. 18% of Laggards) since the start of the pandemic.  

The Agile Manifesto

While Agile has primarily been talked about in the context of application development, the Agile Manifesto offers real value in the context of cloud transformation. For example, the Agile Manifesto encourages teams to think in terms of business milestones and to take the shortest path to achieving that milestone. And, once the milestone has been reached, it urges teams to choose the next business milestone and run towards it. This approach makes a huge difference as it moves the focus from ‘hey, let's move all of our applications to the cloud’ to a deeper understanding of very specific business objectives. 

Find the Right Coach

Many organizations lack the fundamental ability to execute on this approach because they don’t have the expertise. Just as all good teams need a coach to help facilitate effective practice, organizations getting started on the cloud journey benefit from a partner who can help guide achievement to milestones, upskill teams and in the process, remove risk from the cloud journey. 

Interested in a partner that can help you reframe the conversation around business value and achieve milestones more effectively?  Reach out to us today.

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Aater Suleman

Aater Suleman, Ph.D. is Vice President of Cloud Transformation at NTT DATA. He is a recognized thought leader and a frequent speaker at events including AWS re:Invent, Dockercon, TechWell and O’Reilly and regularly conducts corporate workshops on digital transformation. He is a Technology Council Contributor for Forbes. Dr. Suleman actively puts his background in technology and experience as a professor at the University of Austin to work designing systems for continuous improvement at the world’s leading brands.

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