Peter Wilde and Lowndes Consultants

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     phone: +44 (0) 7966 260 150
     email: peter@wildeuk.net

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Approach

 

I have considerable experience and highly developed skills within business process; change management; business analysis, design and specification; project and programme management; the relationship between I.T. and the business; which are all essential components of good I.T. Management.

However, I also believe that approach and style is key to successful achievement of objectives and I summarise below my approach to these areas. I have listed points that I consider to be the most important but this is not comprehensive by any means.

Business process

  • Business process needs to be effective, efficient, clearly understood by staff, and support both corporate standards as well as strategic objectives.
  • Whilst business processes should be regularly reviewed to ensure these requirements are met, I also believe that change in process requires time to bed-in and deliver the benefits. A balance is required between regular process re-engineering and maintaining the status-quo.

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Change management

  • Having made a decision to change, management of the change will be key.
  • Thorough planning must be carried out with consideration given to the impacts upon customers, staff, suppliers, and other affected parties.
  • There must be a strong emphasis on the communications plan and its implementation as without this most change programmes will fail. Buy-in must be achieved from key influencers within and without the organisation.
  • Corporately, risk management is also paramount and requires agreement with senior management that risk is acceptable, is mitigated as much as possible and is balanced with the change objectives.
  • Major change management needs to be carried out by a person with a thorough knowledge of the business and ideally not responsible to any specific department or discipline such as I.T. or operations. This will improve the ability of the manager to ensure corporate objectives are met and that effort is coordinated across business functions.

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Business analysis, design and specification

  • Business analysis needs to be structured to ensure requirements are accurately and comprehensively identified.
  • However, as with all structured methodologies, this must be adapted to the needs of the business and the scale of the requirement.
  • Getting to the root of true business requirement is a skill in itself and those without a thorough knowledge of the business processes are not likely to succeed. People within an organisation do not necessarily express true requirements. Many requirements can be conflicting and there is also the issue of managing requirements within the scope and scale of a project or programme consistent with business objectives.
  • In my experience, most projects that fail to deliver do so because requirements are not properly identified, analysed and specified. A requirements specification often becomes a means unto itself that stakeholders in the project fail to understand. Not surprisingly, there can then be subsequent surprise at what the project eventually delivers!
  • Apart from a structured and pragmatic approach to business analysis, design and specification, I am also keen to explore more demonstrable methods such as prototyping and dynamic methods of specification where these are applicable.
  • I have managed projects using AGILE approaches and believe that this can be a very effective method of delivering projects quickly. However, such an approach can have drawbacks and user involvement and commitment is key to the success of such an approach. I am particularly well equipped to manage user involvement and commitment in retail and can be a deciding factor in the success of AGILE driven projects and programmes.

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Project and programme management

  • As with business analysis, I am a great supporter of structured methodology, in particular PRINCE2 in which I am a certified practitioner.
  • PRINCE2 places great emphasis on stakeholder involvement in the control of a project or programme but this is much more difficult to achieve in practice. Consequently this aspect is often skirted around and one of the key benefits of this methodology is unexploited. It takes business knowledge and excellent communications skills to gain the respect of the stakeholders to support the process. Knowledge of the process alone or too significant an emphasis on technical aspects will kill this critical success factor for any project or programme.
  • It is also important to ensure that methodology is not sacrosanct. The method will need to be adapted to the project or programme. Major projects may require all aspects of the method to be implemented in full, others may only use certain elements. The skill is being able to identify which elements need to be applied, ensuring these are then stringently implemented.
  • I remain amazed at how many projects and programmes fail to emphasise benefit delivery as a key stage. This often comes as a post implementation afterthought and is more about justifying the project than really sweating it for business benefit. A benefit realisation plan is crucial and any project cannot be regarded as complete until this has been implemented. It should also be remembered that whilst key promoters may not want to admit it, benefits delivered can often end up different to those defined at the instigation of the project!
  • Projects and particularly major programmes, take time to be executed successfully. There is often too little time or money allowed by the business to achieve this and there needs to be an on-going assessment of progress, costs and delivery that is communicated and understood by stakeholders.
  • Rigorous management on a daily basis will normally be required to keep progress on track but if plans need to be adapted in response to changing business requirements or circumstances, the flexibility to do this should also be built-in.
  • Major programmes that take a very long time to be delivered should be avoided as they are most difficult to keep in sync with a changing business environment. Ownership, management and external factors change, causing significant revisions of strategy and policy. By the time some major programmes are complete their relevance has become diminished and dis-benefit can occur. It is often much better to break down such programmes into smaller more rapidly deliverable elements. Getting the balance right can be crucial not just to business performance but sometimes stark survival!

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Relationship between I.T. and the business

  • If a project or programme is predominantly I.T. based there is a tendency for it to gradually become separated from stakeholders and users. This is a natural consequence of the significant differences between I.T. and other disciplines within a company. I.T. people are, often rightly, focussed on technical issues that other parts of the business cannot understand. Similarly I.T. people often see the business world in a somewhat sterilised, logical way that can often lead to solutions and processes being inappropriately forced upon the business for the sake of good I.T. practice.
  • Unless I.T. is managed in a manner that is proven to be effective, it will end up costing the business and become a break on progress. Often businesses that feel this is happening will outsource I.T. functions to service companies whose business is built around running I.T. effectively and often more efficiently than what can be achieved in-house.
  • Effective communication and understanding between I.T. and other areas of the business is crucial. This becomes even more so when I.T. functions are outsourced. What should never be outsourced is this key link. A business requires senior people that have a good understanding of both the business operations and processes as well as the needs of I.T. This unit is sometimes referred to as 'business systems' and should be the primary vehicle for determining I.T. strategy and establishing business requirements. When I.T. functions are outsourced this unit should manage the relationship with the outsourcing company. It may not always be appropriate to have a separate unit and this function may be integrated into the business operations of the company. However, without the right people who are capable of commanding respect within both the operational and I.T. disciplines, it will be much more difficult to achieve a long lasting I.T. contribution to the business.
  • I.T. is truly capable of driving business strategy. Technology is an enabler that can also be a catalyst. People capable of exploiting this potential within a business are rare as it does require a good understanding of the application of technology within businesses and not just of the technology itself. Businesses that understand this requirement will be leading their respective industries.

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