The expectations of how Program and Project Managers support the implementation of new technology are changing. Technology deployments and implementation projects have historically been owned and managed in great part by an IT department, with sporadic input from the business. In today’s environment of cloud computing and solutions-as-a-service, this is not the case. The cloud era we are thriving in requires refined, reoccurring collaboration between business and IT leaders to develop, deploy, maintain and enhance technology effectively for the workforce. As technology and software is built to be more user-centric and accessible from anywhere, leaders across the business are desiring different outcomes from large system implementation efforts. They are sharing more input, asking for more feedback, influencing the design and growing their immediate understanding of the technology they rely on to run their business daily.
This shift in the knowledge of business leaders, along with greater accessibility and usability, is changing the conversation, dynamic and partnership expectations between IT and business leaders. Too often leaders encounter misalignment amidst the rapid pace of change.
For example, IT leaders in a cloud-first world might assume their teams of developers and architects are on the hook for doing a bulk of the system’s functional configuration, while the business leaders expect their product owners and functional team of experts to inform and own the setup of the system’s configuration going forward for sustainability purposes. Similarly, business users may expect the opportunity to request custom development be done by an IT team, when standardization in a cloud-based tool aims to minimize customization.
Leaders may not recognize that they are misaligned due to limited opportunities to communicate clearly, effectively and transparently. Business partnerships and relationships cannot thrive in an asynchronous channel like e-mail. They need to go beyond a status portal and simple dashboard. Sometimes unbeknownst to leaders, their strife and misalignment is trickling down to impact how employees across teams interact and partner together. When leaders are not aligned, it is rare that their teams are aligned underneath them.
So how can you as a change agent help align leaders in business and IT organizations in a rapidly changing environment? There’s no easy answer but, there are a handful of questions that you can ask to start a conversation in hopes of driving toward a better partnership.
- Are your business and IT leaders aligned? If you ask each of them to describe the program’s goals, how similar do you expect their answers to be?
- Do your business and IT leaders share a unified vision for their teams based on the strategic direction of the organization?
- Do both business and IT leaders have a clear vision of success? Does it stop at “system go-live” or address achieving specific benefits over quarters or years?
- How will changing technology expectations be managed post go-live? How will change be lasting and sustained? Who will manage that change? Who will own and support the long-term sustainment model?
In starting a conversation with each leader, you should ask the tough questions and encourage them to think critically in forming their answers. Once they have articulated their answers independently, bring them together to align on desired outcomes, and help them understand where there are gaps and similarities in their perspectives. From their responses, show in a word cloud where there is commonality and shared vocabulary and meaning. Once the areas of misalignment are surfaced, shown and shared, you may be surprised how effectively leaders can work together to find common ground and identify where they may already be starting from the same place.