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Demystifying People, Process and Technology to Drive Improvements - Part 1

For anyone that’s participated in an enterprise-wide transformational project to fix a particular set of business problems, they’re probably loosely familiar with the idea of “People, Process, Technology.” Through this three-part series, I highlight what I believe are the key components of each, in order to provide a high-level framework to internal client teams as they organize and prepare for change. The output of this series will help internal teams demystify “People, Process and Technology” and drive successful delivery of value-add solutions.

‘“Bill Gates says, ‘Wait until you see what your computer can become.’ But it’s not your computer that should do the becoming. It’s you.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Author

Part 1: People — Put the right people in place early and throughout

Luckily for us, amidst all the innovation in enterprise technology (big data tools, business intelligence, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, etc.), there is a still a need for people to create, plan, build and deliver. And last I checked, there are very few self-delivering solutions for businesses that don’t require planning and direction from actual people. Identifying the right people is the first critical element to ensuring any project or solution will provide real value.

Let’s get started with a typical scenario…

A complex business problem is identified. An executive, with help from her team, formulates a high-level set of needs (“requirements”) to fix the problem. Someone calls some solution providers; of course, all of them can fix the problem easily. The solution providers come in, perform some demonstrations and the client chooses a solution. The project starts, and the client’s project team consists of two financial analysts and someone from IT. Why does this always happen? From what I’ve seen, this is a recipe for failure and a typical scenario as leadership is too busy to participate, or as we like to say, too busy for success.

Let’s back up the bus and talk through the right way to do this…

A complex business problem is identified. An executive carefully picks her team of internal experts (see below), and they collaborate to develop an appropriate set of requirements to fix the problem. The team of experts is heavily involved in selecting the appropriate solution. The project starts, and the team experts are heavily involved throughout to advise and steer the project to a successful launch.

The team of people should typically consist of the following characters:

  • Executive Sponsor: She is the person with the business problem. She understands what improvements are needed and is familiar with the cost/benefit analysis. Without her continued involvement and sponsorship, the team will flail and may get side tracked.
  • Change Agent: This person will understand goals, objectives, timelines and resources and will work tirelessly to meet or exceed those set forth. The Change Agent understands why this will benefit the enterprise and is far from passive when it comes to delivering for the Executive Sponsor. This person embraces change and steps over the people that say things like, “But we have always done it this way…”
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME): The SME applies the functional expertise of a particular business area so that it can be understood by the team designing and building the solution. Without enough time from this person, the project is at serious risk for not being useful, relevant and providing true value to end users.
  • Data Expert: He is intimately familiar with source systems of data that may ultimately interact with the solution. Although existing data should never be the single driver of a solution design, it needs to be carefully considered throughout the process.
  • IT Sponsor: Involvement from IT leadership is always key. Even in the new world of cloud-based solutions, IT should be involved and aware, as they understand the interconnectivity across solutions better than anyone. The right IT Sponsor will have lived through dozens of similar projects and will be a key advisor.
  • Internal Politician: Creating project awareness across an enterprise is important. However, most times, clients want to keep projects quiet for fear of failure and how the endeavors will be perceived by leadership. And undoubtedly, there will be people in the organization who think the project is a poor use of resources and capital, which is why the need arises for a person who understands the project benefits and endorses the project across the enterprise, while having little to no involvement. This person is “connected” across the enterprise and creates a wave of positive internal press for the project. Perception is reality, and when hiccups in delivery happen, it’s much better to have support in various places versus rumblings of “I told you so.”

Aligning the “People” component to any project early (and during the project) will help ensure success.

Look out for Part 2 (Process) and Part 3 (Technology), where I discuss the importance of understanding the business process element as well as aligning the right technology to address requirements and deliver value.

Article written by Drew Brieman
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