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10 Ways Human Capital Can Help De-Risk IT Projects

IT projects have the potential to drive revenue, save money, increase efficiencies, keep companies at the leading edge of their industry and outpace their competitors. They often don’t come cheap and there are countless examples of failed projects or unrealised benefits. But technology doesn’t cause IT projects to fail; people do.

By Lauren Foster

Maybe you’re spending $500,000, $1,000,000, or $10,000,000 on an IT project. You have a clear business case and a range of benefits that you’re expecting to realise. How do you make sure you’re not another cautionary tale on the cover of next week’s newspaper?

You can start by planning the people aspects of the change as carefully as the technology.

1.    Ensure effective sponsorship

Projects need sponsors who are active, engaged and bought into the project. If people along the line look up and see a sponsor who is disengaged or uninvolved, there is no incentive for them to act any other way. If you project doesn’t have a sponsor, or doesn’t have the right sponsor, fix that fast.

2.    Don’t forget the technology team

What many people forget is the impact on the technology team itself. Even with external support, the technology team is likely to be juggling their day-to-day tasks along with whatever this project requires. IT projects can be massively disruptive to tech teams at the time they need to be at their most effective, so helping to manage change within the technology team can greatly reduce stress and risk.

3.    Look beyond the obvious stakeholder groups

Most people can identify the primary stakeholder groups impacted by a change, but you need to think beyond the obvious. Careful analysis of what is changing and for whom can help catch these secondary stakeholder groups and save you a whole lot of headache later.

4.    Look beyond your project

More often than not, you’re one of half a dozen initiatives all competing for awareness and actions from similar stakeholder groups. Without visibility into other projects or programmes you could miss interdepencies that will impact you or end up with change fatigued stakeholders. Ideally there is a PMO coordinating concurrent projects, but if there isn’t, dig around, ask questions and share information.

5.    Bring people along on the journey with you

The danger that comes from saying too little, too late is that people are taken by surprise. This can lead to a lot of negative perceptions and push back and you could be missing out on valuable insights that might not have been obvious to the project team. Make sure communication occurs and that there is a way for people to communicate back.

6.    Be clear on what success looks like

This starts with the vision for the project, but it goes further than that. Make sure the team can clearly define what is required for a project to succeed and what ‘done’ looks like. The more specific you can be, the easier it is to hit this target.

7.    Align incentives to key performance indicators

What gets measured gets done, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Aligning incentives to reward desired behaviour is one of the surest ways to get people to act in a certain way. Find ways, both formal and informal, to incentivise what you want and build the habit of change.

8.    Remove alternatives and work arounds

It’s hard to drive a behaviour change when the old way of doing something still exists. Clearly the new way needs to work, and people need to know how to use it, but removing alternatives helps force people to dive in from the earliest days.

9.    Use peer leadership

Identifying a small group of peer leaders who can seed a change throughout a team will greatly increase your likelihood of success. These people should be key influencers who can be honest yet positive about the project, and they need to be engaged with regularly.

10. Share progress

The more you can share good news stories, the more you are embedding the change in the mind of your team. Keep driving, keep communicating, keep measuring, keep rewarding and eventually you will win.

Lauren is an Associate Director in Deloitte New Zealand’s Human Capital practice which helps organisations develop and manage the variety of people-related aspects of today and tomorrow’s business environment.

Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Report addresses how companies are rewriting the rules for a digital age. Read more here.

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