Tag Archives: change management

Are your IT projects ‘drivers’ or ‘supporters’?

By David Bicknell

An article by Art Langer in the Wall St Journal argues that IT projects are either ‘drivers’ or ‘supporters’.

Drivers are those projects and activities that affect the relationship with an organisation’s clients i.e. projects that drive revenue directly or indirectly. Supporters, on the other hand, are those everyday activities that are more operational in nature.

Langer cites the work that Dana Deasy has done firstly at Siemens  and more recently at BP.

He writes: “We all know that executives are more interested in implementing technologies to drive the business, than they are in using cutting-edge technology for its own sake. For Deasy, the biggest challenge was mostly building internal consensus about  how the technology would help  customers–and how Siemens could be more competitive in the marketplace.

“Deasy also had to show his executives that the evaluation of investments in these projects would be different than evaluations of other kinds of IT work. With e-business, the market reaction to different product and service offerings can be less certain.

“So Deasy established the concept of “revalidation.” Approved technology projects were reviewed every 90 days to determine whether they were indeed providing the planned outcomes, whether new outcomes needed to be established, or whether the technology was no longer useful.

“Siemens was moving from a traditional process of analyse-develop-deliver to a new process of sensing what a customer might want, and then responding to it more dynamically.”

Langer concludes by saying that, “The idea that all IT projects must succeed is outdated and unrealistic in true “driver” initiatives. CIOs must learn from Deasy’s lesson: If you are engaging in true “driver” initiatives, you cannot evaluate them on the “supporter” method of simple success rates.”

Interesting piece – worth a read.

How to Develop and Evaluate Strategic IT Projects

Desktop virtualisation may solve corporate data challenge but success relies on project clarity

By David Bicknell

I recently read a blog by Clarence Villanueva which made the worthy point that although many organisations now have smartphones and iPads, they still need to get corporate data on them.

Recent surveys  have suggested that 27% of companies support the iPad today, while another 31% plan to support it in the future. As Villanueva points out, as organisations begin to support connected devices such as iPads and smartphones, they will want to connect them to their enterprise data and applications. One solution for achieving that is desktop virtualisation.

According to Villanueva’s blog,  desktop virtualisation is an option because:

  • It facilitates employee access to enterprise data and applications from any platform-neutral device.
  • Certain solutions allow you to convert your existing laptops/desktops into thin clients, enabling you to lengthen the life cycles of the equipment, and
  • Patch management and updates are controlled more effectively, potentially lowering internal management costs.

The problem, as the blog points out, is that many organisations don’t know where to start on desktop virtualisation. And that hints  at some IT project problems further down the line, because solicitation of information from suppliers is messy.

As the blog says, “As companies reach out to these vendors, Forrester sees that incomplete information is shared and/or project goals are unclear, which results in confusion to the vendor and multiple rounds of questions and answers.

“One of the ways to overcome this challenge is to focus on internal collaboration and organise yourself before going out to market. The transformation of the desktop from the traditional status quo to a virtualised environment is complicated — it requires the collaboration of a variety of people. Desktop virtualisation  projects affect a multitude of business and IT areas….successful projects enlist the help of companies’ internal desktop management, networking, storage, security, and software licensing professionals for a unified solution.”

One organisation that seems to be making some headway on desktop virtualisation by knowing where it is headed is National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

The company recently gave a presentation on its move to a virtualised desktop environment as part of a business growth strategy that will see it target new international regions, new services and partners, and involve it in possible merger and acquisition activity.

NATS believes adopting desktop virtualisation will give it the ability to, according to Gavin Walker, its head of information solutions, “..scale at a fast pace….a key requirement.” 

NATS has 6000 employees, including operational. technical and general office workers who all have different user profiles in their use of IT. Many of them work across multiple sites, which is why NATS wants to have remote access to the corporate network from anywhere at any time.

It also wants to use the Cloud to enable it to scale as and when required and to adopt role-based computing with integrated identity management to help it deploy services and applications based on user profiling to improve the users’ experiences.

NATS says it has now completed the planning and discovery of the desktop virtualisation project, and by working with a virtualisation company, Point to Point,  now has a scaled down version of the desktop virtualisation system with Office 2010. The version, dubbed ‘Springboard’ has been rolled out to 100 people across the organisation, including NATS’ chief executive Richard Deakin and his executive team.

“Getting stakeholder investment can be a challenge as IT is seen to be taking money away from tbe bottom line,” says Walker. “Springboard helped us to demonstrate immediate results and provided an indication of what the system would be able to do once in place. This really is a change management programme supported by technology.”

Other Links

Computer Weekly: NATS delivers Office 2010, Visio and MS Project on virtual desktops

M&A-led IT change project creates integration challenge for United Airlines

By David Bicknell

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) frequently create IT project and change management headaches when companies’ systems have to be integrated.

The latest example of a system migration creating a change headache appears to be United Airlines’ adoption of Continental Airlines’ reservations platform, as the New York Times recently reported.

The New York Times said that United Airlines suffered service problems including flight delays, faulty kiosks and jammed phone lines as it tried to work through technical problems in its efforts to combine the United and Continental reservation systems. The two companies first announced their merger in May 2010.

The United and Continental problems appear to mirror the problems that US Airways Group experienced when it tried to  combine the reservations systems of America West Airlines and US Airways following a merger in 2005.

Related Links

A Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook for CIOs, Part 1

A Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook for CIOs, Part 2

Fliers’ Alert: United, Continental merger comes Saturday

Why effective project management should focus on people, not just processes

By David Bicknell

I recently read an interesting post in the Gallup Management Journal which argued that when it comes to project management, most organisations put their practices before their people.

In other words, they place more emphasis on ‘rational’ factors, such as the process itself, and rather less on emotional drivers that could actually deliver project excellence – actually, just a project success would do! – such as their employees’ engagement with the project and company.

The piece, by Benoit Hardy-Vallee, points out that, “Project management is integral to the business world. Milestones, kickoff meetings, deliverables, stakeholders, Gantt charts, and work plans constitute the everyday world of most managers, whether they are called “project managers” or not. Given the vast experience organisations have with project management, it’s reasonable to wonder why all projects aren’t completed on time, on scope, and under budget.”

It argues that cost and time overruns on IT projects have had a profound effect on national economies, and suggests that one estimate of the IT project failure rate is between 5% and 15%, which represents a loss of $50 billion to $150 billion per year in the United States. In Europe, although the figures look pretty dated, they are still staggering in size: IT project failures  cost the European Union €142 billion in 2004.

What’s more, the piece argues, this trend is here to stay. With an ever-growing need for accessible and integrated data, organisations require larger platforms to manage supply chains, customer relationships, and dozens of other crucial systems.

“Mega-software projects are now common in private and governmental organisations, and development is not slowing down, especially in emerging economies.”

The blog argues that large projects, especially those in the IT sectors, already have a poor record. And forcing team members to adapt to project management processes and procedures only makes it more likely that the project will fail.

It goes on to suggest that a different, more powerful behaviour-based project management might be a better way of  enabling project groups to gain higher levels of emotional commitment and performance from their team members, as well as increased levels of emotional involvement from stakeholders to help improve both engagement and performance.

“A typical project management approach focuses on processes, policies, and procedures. Every task and step is described in detail by a set of rules.  Many companies implement rigid processes that dictate behaviour and use statistical methods to control quality (such as total quality management, kaizen, lean management, and Six Sigma). Process guides and rulebooks support work practices, while quality control systems assess and improve these practices.

“The problem with a single-minded focus on processes and methodologies is that once people are given procedures to follow, compliance replaces results. Everybody is concerned about how to do the job, not about the outcome if the job is done well.

“Companies that take this approach do so for valid reasons: They can’t manage what they don’t measure. More importantly, they can’t let projects run without any direction, hoping for the best. However, by relying on managing only these rational factors, organisations fail to harness the power of human nature by engaging employees’ emotions.”

The article concludes: “It’s time to update project management not with more methodologies, but with more emotional content. Employees’ and stakeholders’ disengagement can make a project fail, but behaviour-based management can make projects succeed.”

Gallup Management Journal

Why thinking beyond ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ might pay business dividends

By David Bicknell

Most organisations in the public sector are continuing to reduce their costs. 2012 brings a continued diet of re-asserting control of costs and delivering operational savings to cope with a challenging economic landscape.

But a conversation with York-based services and solutions company Trustmarque recently raised a new phrase, and one that is perhaps blindingly obvious, and which applies to both public and private sectors: cost avoidance.

As an IT organisation it is worth asking yourself whether you really need to purchase a product or service. Can you find an alternative strategy? If you don’t have to buy something, then don’t buy it. Or find a better way of spending the money to deliver structural change that benefits the business. 

Sometimes organisations miss an opportunity to bring their technology up to date and change the way they work. Their conservative approach never drives real change.

It is vendors like Trustmarque’s role to help such organisations plan, source, deploy and manage their IT infrastructure with an end goal of reducing their costs and delivering operational savings. In Trustmarque’s case, it is a highly successful approach which just led to the company’s best-ever year and won it the Services Provider of the Year title for 2011 in the CRN Channel Awards.

It is an approach that has also worked for its customers: Plymouth City Council, by upgrading to Windows 7, tackled change by creating a more flexible, mobile way of working – and saved itself £494,000 in licensing fees.

Sometimes you have to think big to win big. And thinking in terms of ‘cost avoidance’ rather than the cliche ‘reducing costs’  – though that doesn’t necessarily mean not spending at all – and going beyond an, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ approach just might help some realise their cost goals, and at the same time, change their organisations for the better.

A few suggested blog posts – on change at Kodak, the rise of Splunk and a culture clash in China

By David Bicknell

Browsing over the weekend, I came across a few posts about change management and cultural change that caught my eye and are worthy of passing on.

A couple are from the Harvard Business Review, and one is taken from IT-Director.com.

The Harvard Business Review items cover the innovation and transformational change issues involved in the continued demise of Kodak and the cultural issues that anyone who has plans to do business in China may have to get to grips with. The IT-Director article covers the growing reputation of Splunk, a real-time operational intelligence specialist that collects and indexes machine data and which has potential in the growing ‘Big Data’ marketplace.

‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ to postpone IT project

By David Bicknell

Sometimes you make decisions over the future of IT systems in the public sector with the best intentions – but still you can’t win. Someone, somewhere, will be unhappy.

Yesterday, I mentioned that a $92m overhaul of a Department of Revenue system in Oregon had been postponed to save money. Now, it seems,  the postponement is a bad idea that will hamper legislators’ ability to make well-informed decisions.  

“I think it is penny wise and pound foolish, if I could use an old saw,” said Vicki Berger, co-chair of the committee that oversees state taxing and revenue policy, according to the Statesman Journal. “We have to bite the bullet. We have to get a better system. We have to know better, more viable information on what impacts our revenue stream.”

Richard Devlin, co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology Committee, has reportedly characterised the announcement as a “nine-month delay” rather than a cancellation of the project.

“I don’t see that as an end to the project, because the need is very real. They need to upgrade their systems, and they will continue to work to that end,” said Devlin. “I can understand the counter-argument, that you do have antiquated systems in the Department of Revenue, but I think citizens in Oregon would want when we invest in this fully that we do it right,” he continued. “I would not want to spend $92 million and then have a project that doesn’t really work.”


It’s a sign of the times that you can get such polarised views over the future of an IT project, but it’s perhaps not surprising when the project is going to cost $92m. I think the current climate is likely to see cost/benefits for IT projects become an issue for many organisations, both in the public and private sectors, but especially in the public sector.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that IT projects are at risk, simply that those making decisions on new systems/upgrades are going to need hard evidence of the real change benefits to justify any decision they make to proceed.

Civil Service too risk averse at a micro level

 Faced with big challenges, the Civil Service thought small thoughts.  [Tony Blair, memoirs]

A report by the House of Commons Public Administration Committee has warned that the Coalition Government needs a more transparent and flexible Civil Service when it comes to commissioning public services from charities, social enterprises, mutuals and private companies.

The Committee’s report says the Civil Service needs to transfer power out of Whitehall and into communities and as a result fundamentally change the way it works.

It says the challenge of this new role will be compounded by the need to meet sizeable reductions in administrative budgets set out in the 2010 Spending Review.

Its conclusions are that while the Government seeks to embrace change, it has failed to recognise the scale of reform required or to set out the change programme required to achieve this reform. It says there is a reluctance to produce what they see as the latest in a long line of reform initiatives in Whitehall. This antipathy to a plan for reform fails to take note of the critical factors for success in Civil Service reform initiatives and wider corporate change programmes: coordination from the centre and strong political leadership. As a result, it warns, key policies like the ‘Big Society’ agenda and decentralisation will fail.

The Committee says: “We have recommended that the Government should produce a comprehensive change programme articulating clearly what it believes the Civil Service is for, how it must change and with a timetable of clear milestones. Such a change programme would enable real change in Whitehall and avoid the fate of previous unsuccessful reform initiatives.

“Such a change programme must also include proposals for the Civil Service to retain and to develop the new skill sets required to meet the demands of the Big Society policy agenda, and to address long-running concerns about the decline in specialist expertise in Whitehall, the failure to innovate and to take risks, and the failure to work across departmental silos. Such a plan is required to combat inertia and deliver government policies where Ministers and departments may otherwise be unwilling or unable to drive change.

“To reflect the changing role of the Civil Service, we have also recommended that the Government should consider the development of a new Haldane model of accountability which can sustain localism and decentralisation; or they must explain how the existing model remains relevant. The new realities of devolving power out of Whitehall to local government and elsewhere should be codified in the Civil Service governance structures.

“Ministers seem to believe that change will just happen. It is essential that the Cabinet Office take leadership of the reforms and coordinate the efforts in individual departments and across Whitehall as a whole. The scale of the challenges faced by the Civil Service calls for the establishment of a world class centre of Government, headed by someone with the authority to insist on delivery across Whitehall.”

In particular, the report says the main change of task, which will affect many but not all departments, will be an increase in commissioning and contracting. More onerous and time-consuming, however, will be monitoring the contracting process and dealing with problems and complaints arising.

The report says Whitehall has traditionally performed three core roles: policy advice, the management of public services, and the supervision of public bodies. If the Civil Service is to connect with Ministers’ ambitions for public service reform a fourth capability will need to be added to this trio: the ability to engage with groups from the voluntary and private sectors through the contracting and commissioning process. Every government department must focus on developing this fourth capability, and the Cabinet Office must ensure that this is embedded in the Civil Service change programme across government.

The report explains why SMEs have made so few inroads into government work. 

It goes so far as to depict ministers as not understanding Civil Service inertia, which means they cannot come up with a plan to do anything about it. Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, described a paradoxical situation where Government took huge risks at a macro level, but at a micro level tended to be very risk averse and hostile to innovation.

He added, “You do not often hear of someone’s career suffering because they preside over an inefficient status quo, but try something new that does not work and that can blot your copybook bigtime.”

 An example of one SME’s innovative ideas

Mutuals: meeting the leadership and change management challenge of spinning out

A recent blog post by the Transition Institute discusses the leadership and change management challenges that must be met in spinning out of the public sector.

The post, by Sarah Ashley, argues that there are a number of themes that recur among those spinning out, including a need for leadership, transparency, language and perceptions.

On leadership, she says, “To instigate and complete a successful change, leadership is extremely important. Though change champions can steer change from any layer of an organisation, the project needs to be spearheaded by an ambitious, dedicated and highly motivated individual. This person must be fully committed to change, and will have to confirm, persuade and assure others to support the change.

“Spinning out of the public sector and change management is not an overnight process, but the change does need to be swift. Once the decision to change has been made, the change should move quickly and throughout the transition the leader must be flexible but resolute. ”

You can read the rest of the post here

Handling change: Could Tesco Bank learn from First Direct – and Govt?

By Tony Collins

Tesco Bank has learned the hard way what some government and NHS users have discovered: that the first rule of managing big IT-enabled change is to invest in lots of extra staff to cope with the unexpected.

A spokesman for Tesco Bank said yesterday that its services are back to normal. Customers can access their accounts and the help-desk is answering calls normally. He was not aware of any “issues”.

Not all Tesco Bank’s  customers agree that the service is fully operational.  Some are having problems closing their accounts and when they succeed they are being sent hand-written cheques, which is, perhaps, an archaic practice for an on-line bank. Was this part of the original design?

Martin Bryant who has had a Tesco account since 1997 emailed Campaign4Change to say he was having problems closing his account.

“I’m still waiting for my money, and spend an hour a day on the phone to Tesco’s unbelievably poor helpline.”

Eventually he persuaded Tesco Bank to close his account.

Said Bryant: “The new computer system does not allow me to make transfers to my non-Tesco bank account … The help-desk staff  do not know what they are doing: promises to ring back are not kept, and it took me several hours over three days to close my accounts and get my money transferred to my First Direct account.

“I only succeeded because I rang so often I finally encountered the only member of staff capable of actually doing something –  so thank you Alison.” He said Tesco should “stick to selling cabbages”.

Bryant is among those left unhappy by Tesco Bank’s troubled transfer of about 900,000 accounts from Royal Bank of Scotland systems to its own. These are some of the comments in the past few days on Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert.com website:

“I still don’t have the [new] PIN, and having tried to call Tesco Bank again tonight (three times) i have not managed to speak to anyone as the lines are still too busy. I can’t believe Tesco Bank have the cheek to claim that the issue is somehow resolved. I hope the regulator takes a very good look at Tesco Banks’ conduct …”


“One month on and there are still problems. I have been waiting nine days for my temporary PIN. I want to move my money but am unable to do so. No interest from Tesco. You just have to wait 10 working days before we will do anything about it. That’s two weeks with no access to my money… All I want is my money out!”


“Still locked out as well – what a shambolic mess. Apparently the temporary PINS that were promised to be sent out on 8th and 9th July were not sent out. The follow-up temporary PIN allegedly sent out 14th July still has not arrived.

They say to allow up to five working days, so tomorrow is my deadline before account closure. Clearly from the conversation today they still have a great many very angry customers, unable to access their accounts after over four weeks.”


“I hope the shambles is over for me? After 2 weeks of being messed about I gave up on Tesco. No PIN, no letters, no clue.  Asked to close the account and was transferred through to some one who was clearly becoming a expert at this.

“After security and a call back they will send a cheque……won’t transfer it back to me electronically…mind you with their systems can’t blame them for not taking the risk?

I await the post with baited breath. Still one lesson learnt…Don’t bank with Tesco.”


Learning from First Direct – and central government

First Direct is regarded in customer satisfaction surveys as the bank customers would most recommend.

In 2011, as in other years, the UK Customer Service Index, which surveyed 26,000 people, put First Direct top of the UK banks.

Like Tesco Bank, First Direct unwittingly locked customers out of their accounts when implementing large-scale change. It happened in 2007.

First Direct got away with the problems without damage to its reputation largely, it seems, because it had enough extra service desk staff talking through with thousands of callers the steps they needed to take to update their browser. Some browser versions were incompatible with First Direct’s upgraded system.

In contrast Tesco Bank was caught short and customers had to wait an hour or more before getting through on the helpline – or giving up. It also appears that when people did get through, some of the extra staff Tesco Bank belatedly drafted in did not have access to customer accounts.

NHS Trusts and the NPfIT local service providers BT and CSC have learned the hard way that large-scale IT implementations require extra staff at go-live, and several weeks after, to cope with system and software bugs, work-rounds and end-users not understanding new ways of working.

It’s a trap one would have thought Tesco Bank would have avoided.  You can’t cut staff before large-scale IT-enabled change – and perhaps not soon afterwards either.


Lessons from an IT crisis – Tesco Bank.

Waitrose apologises to website customers.