The Four Essential Elements for Successful IT Projects July 15, 2014 No Comments

Though IT projects (and projects in general, for that matter) can fail for any number of reasons, four ingredients are vital and common to all successful projects. Research and experience have shown that having all of these elements in place greatly improves the odds of success, while the absence of any one dramatically increases the risk of failure.

The 4 essential elements of successful IT projectsThe first and most fundamental requirement for success is that the stakeholders in the project have to want it to succeed. This may seem so blatantly obvious as to be not worth mentioning, as IT projects in general are designed to alleviate some sort of corporate pain. But stakeholders may consciously or unconsciously create barriers to success if they don’t understand the project or are simply resistant to change. You can lead a horse to water, but…

Chris Rixon summarizes this nicely in a post on BMC Communities, writing “While it’s crucial that all stakeholders believe in the mandate for change, they are more likely to be invested if they want it to happen,” and that wanting the change improves other aspects of project execution including problem-solving and teamwork.

So how does one instill this desire among stakeholders? It isn’t enough merely to ask people what they want. As with microwave ovens in the 70s, VCRs in the 80s, web browsers in the 90s, and smartphones in the 00s, people didn’t know they wanted these new-to-the-world products until they were developed.

Understanding wants therefore requires some ability to anticipate what users will embrace. It also means “bringing them along for the ride,” involving users early on in defining goals and metrics. As Chris put this in his post, “Invite all team members to define a shared view of success, and you may be surprised to find that even the most hardened skeptics will temper their objections. Their participation is vital to reinforcing the vision and its credibility.”

But the ultimate in creating that want is to empower users to do things for themselves. People take pride in creation (for example, if anyone has ever served you a salad containing vegetables they grew themselves, they almost certainly made a point of telling you those veggies came straight from the garden).

In the IT project world, an example is mapping business processes as part of an enterprise request management (ERM) implementation. Enabling business process owners (e.g., finance or HR managers) to design, test, modify, and deploy their own service fulfillment processes, with minimal IT assistance, increases efficiency and accelerates the rollout of new services, while increasing adoption through that pride in creation.

The second requirement for project success is belief that it can succeed. The U.S. scientific community accepted President Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade because, as audacious as the goal was, they had confidence it could be done. Had he asked for, say, room-temperature nuclear fusion in the same timeframe, the scientific response would likely have been less enthusiastic.

One of the most effective ways to demonstrate viability is through an agile approach. For example, the goal in ERM of using a single portal to manage any type of service request, from all shared-services groups across an enterprise, can seem daunting at first. Taking an agile approach to service management—starting with just one or a few processes or services, then building upon early successes—reinforces confidence in scaling request management horizontally across the organization.

The third essential element for success is collaboration. Successful projects require high-functioning teams, which Chris characterizes as ” small, yet focused and inclusive,” including individuals with expertise in project management, relevant IT specialties and business functions, and service delivery management.

The ideal size for the project team will vary by project scope and complexity. But teamwork is in our DNA, and we recommend forming teams that are as small as feasible, as large as needed, and as passionate as possible.

The final ingredient needed for project success is resources. No project can succeed without adequate levels and the right mix of people, time, space, equipment, outside help, and technology.

IT projects, unfortunately, have a reputation for going over budget. According to management consulting firm McKinsey, nearly half of all IT projects (and two-thirds of software projects) exceed their initial budget allotments.

Three keys to help assure adequate resource allocations without busting the budget are:

  • Keeping teams—and thus staff time and cost—as small as feasible (which has the added bonus of making them more manageable and likely to succeed).
  • Using an agile methodology, enabling “quick wins” and proof of value before substantial budget or time investments are made.
  • Leveraging existing technology wherever possible. For example, the ERM approach to business service delivery focuses on leveraging existing investments in software and related organizational knowledge wherever possible, for functions like scheduling, messaging, costing, reporting, and analytics.

Every new project entails some risk of failure. But to avoid all risk would mean avoiding opportunities to grow and improve. By ensuring that projects clearly address the wants of stakeholders, inspire confidence, optimize collaboration, and have adequate resources, organizations can maximize the odds of project and operational success.

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The Best Service Catalog Tools, Featuring Gartner Insight July 8, 2014 No Comments

Organizations implementing request management portals for an IT service catalog or broader enterprise request management (ERM) have numerous vendor options to consider. Which offering is best in any individual situation depends of course on the specific needs of that company or government agency.

The decision process generally starts with research, and such research often includes evaluating reviews conducted by leading industry analysts. How does Kinetic Request compare to competitive systems in such evaluations?

Gartner Service Catalog Critical Capabilities ReportIn the recent Gartner report, Critical Capabilities for IT Service Catalog Tools [Jeffrey M. Brooks, Chris Matchett, 17 March 2014], the answer is: quite well.

As recently announced, Kinetic Request received an assessment of “Good,” the highest possible assessment given for Product Viability in this report. It is one of seven products evaluated to receive this rating. The research evaluated nine critical capabilities and various weightings of importance.

The report defines a service catalog in this way:

“IT service catalog tools are intended to improve business users’ customer experiences and to increase IT operations efficiency. IT service catalogs simplify the service request process for customers and improve customer satisfaction by presenting a single face of IT to the customer for all types of IT interactions… IT service catalog tools provide a process workflow engine that automates, manages and tracks service fulfillment.”

That definition—improving the user experience and service efficiency through a single portal linked to an automated process workflow engine—aligns well with the ERM concept, though ERM extends the service catalog beyond IT into potentially all shared services functions within an organization.

Kinetic Request is a powerful and flexible enterprise-wide request management portal application. It’s been praised by customers for helping to reduce helpdesk calls and workload, cutting request fulfillment time, eliminating paperwork, and providing significant cost savings.

Gartner clients and other organizations interested in reading the full evaluation can order the full Gartner report here.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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The Five Most Popular Posts on Kinetic Vision of 2014 (So Far) July 1, 2014 No Comments

As we reach the halfway point of 2014, here’s a quick look at the five most-read posts on the Kinetic Vision blog so far this year. If there’s a common thread among these five posts, it’s that while all of them pertain to IT, none of them are limited to the technical realm; rather, all of these posts reflect the strategic engagement of IT with business functions and other shared services groups within organizations.

Five top posts of the first half of 2014

Image credit: Weston Signs

In general, these posts are practical (four provide how-to guidance); informative (three reflect industry research); cross-functional (two are focused on employee onboarding); and evergreen (two were published prior to this year).

Enjoy this look back at the most-read posts on the blog so far this year, and to our readers in the U.S. and Canada, enjoy the holidays this week!

10 Key Benefits of a Business Service Catalog: Forrester Research, Part 2
August 27, 2013

IT service catalogs reduce the time and cost of delivering technical services while improving the user experience. But the benefits of service catalogs needn’t be limited to the provision of IT services; an expanded view of the service catalog to encompass all shared services groups in the organization (e.g., HR, finance, facilities, etc.) extends the cost savings of service catalogs while also providing employees with a single, intuitive interface for requesting any type of enterprise service. Forrester Research has identified a number of reasons for undertaking such a business service catalog effort.

Five Key BYOD Trends and Statistics You Need to Know
March 4, 2014

As interest in BYOD skyrocketed between late 2011 and mid-2012, the initial resistance from both executive management and IT quickly gave way to scrambling to accommodate employee preferences while safeguarding corporate applications and data.  18 months later, fresh research shows that while organizations are maturing in their approach to BYOD, both the level of preparedness and nature of adaptation varies considerably. Here are five key trends.

Four Ways to Optimize the New Employee Onboarding Process
January 7, 2014

Implementing an organized onboarding process makes life better for both the organization and the new employee, at what is often a very stressful time. What’s needed is for managers in each department to map out their onboarding tasks, approvals and deliverables, and coordinate these tasks with other departments. Then look for opportunities to automate as many of the tasks as possible.

Automating Employee Onboarding and Provisioning Processes with Request Management
June 12, 2012

The benefits of automating onboarding and provisioning include less paperwork, reduced costs and increased efficiency. Perhaps most importantly, proper onboarding and provisioning makes new employees feel welcome, prepared, and  confident they have the resources to quickly make an impact within the organization. There are several ways to automate employee onboarding and provisioning, including purpose-built applications, but using a Request Management application is perhaps the simplest and most efficient way to do it.

Systems of Engagement: How to Get Revolutionary Business Results from an Evolutionary IT Approach
February 4, 2014

Legacy management and control software platforms weren’t designed to support lightweight, mobile, wireless access. Certainly, a “rip and replace” approach is one way to address this—but both business users and their IT counterparts cringe at the thought of the time, expense, and business disruption of this approach, not to mention the loss of substantial intellectual and financial capital invested in existing core enterprise systems. A better approach is to retain those core business applications (systems of record), while providing the simplified, flexible, web-based access required by business users through interface-layer systems of engagement.

Mobile, Social, and Cloud Computing – The Changing Role of the CIO June 24, 2014 No Comments

The focus and responsibilities of the CIO position are expected to evolve significantly over the next few years, as IT adapts to the latest once-in-a-generation change.

CIOs will be challenged to innovate and be strategic planning partners with other business leaders, while dealing with increased cyber-security threats and information architecture platform changes, in an environment of skills shortages and anemic budgets—among other changes.

Those are a few of the conclusions reported on CIO Insight from a recent IDC study, Worldwide CIO Agenda 2014 Top 10 Predictions. The report describes the new challenges CIOs are facing and provides recommendations for how CIOs can transform their organizations over the next few years to adapt to these developments.

Changing role of the CIO

Three trends in particular—pertaining to agility, mobility, cloud computing, social networks, and service planning—deserve a closer examination.

Mobile Business Will Require More Support

“By 2017, as a result of enterprise mobility, 60% of CIOs will support agile architectures with a mix of cloud-based interfaces for legacy and next-generation apps.”

As noted here previously, mobile device management and mobilizing business processes is a high priority in a majority of enterprises this year. But not every business process needs to be mobilized, and not all of those that do have the same urgency. The best approach to supporting mobile workers is an agile model; determine which processes are most vital to and common among mobile users, redesign those processes to provide a delightful experience for mobile users, then move on to the next prioritized set.

In addition, as the prediction above acknowledges, most enterprises have significant investments in legacy control and management applications. Mobile users increasingly need the ability to view, add, delete, and change information in these systems. Proving mobile access to legacy applications and data needn’t mean a disruptive and expensive “rip and replace” approach.

Instead, build a simplified, mobile-friendly web interface that enables users to access and interact with data in legacy systems. This “leverage and extend” approach is far less costly and time-consuming, and can be rolled out gradually, as with mobile process redesign. Forrester Research describes this as integrating “legacy ‘systems of record’ with newer, cloud / mobile / web-based ‘systems of engagement.’”

Demographic Shift to Public Social Networks

“80% of CIOs in consumer businesses will integrate IT with public social networks by 2015 in order to meet the needs of young and mobile customers.”

Possibly—though the notion that public social networks are the best venue for IT (or other business service) integration is certainly debatable.

Just as most people use different social networks for different types of interaction (e.g., LinkedIn for professional networking, Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for news, etc.), business communications aren’t monolithic either. Projects and topics within a business are typically of most interest to a discrete, defined group of employees.

It’s likely therefore that business application vendors will build contextual social capabilities into existing systems, so that, for example, the P&L statement can be discussed within the accounting system, while performance reviews can be commented on (with proper access rights, of course) from within the HR management software, and IT service metric trends can generate social interaction within a business value dashboard.

Gap Between Business and IT Planning Unsustainable

“IDC expects 60% of CIOs to recognize the importance of developing a fully functional enterprise architecture linked to service development and planning, but says less than 40% will deploy that architecture effectively.”

A key component of an “enterprise architecture linked to service development and planning” is a business service catalog that enables business process owners to map out, test and deploy their own process workflows in conjunction with IT, but with minimal technical assistance.

This approach enables those with the most knowledge of business processes to redesign those processes from the user perspective, and teams to develop processes that cross functional lines (e.g., onboarding a new employee). Employees, meanwhile, are provided with one central portal from which they can request any type of service, resource, or product needed to do their jobs, and check on the status of pending requests, at any time from any device.

As the role of the CIO evolves, some disruption will be inevitable. But using tools that leverage existing technologies as much as possible minimizes business interruption. Using those tools to enable automated self-service increases convenience for users while reducing costs. And taking an agile approach to service redesign, and the technology needed to support automated, enterprise-wide service delivery, can help avoid unnecessary jolts and smooth the path (somewhat at least) to becoming a next-generation CIO.

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Three Ways to Reduce the Stress of IT June 17, 2014 No Comments

IT professionals are feeling unprecedented levels of stress. The situation is unhealthy for those who work in IT as well as the organizations and business users who depend on them.

With technology playing an ever-larger role across enterprises, from analyzing exponentially-growing data sets to automating marketing functions to keeping remote and mobile employees productive, holding onto experienced and knowledgeable IT staff is more vital than ever.

How to reduce stress in ITYet according to recent research reported on eSecurity Planet, nearly four out of five IT administrators say they are “actively considering leaving their jobs due to job-related stress”—up from just over half of respondents a year ago. A third or more have missed social functions, time with family, and sleep, due to issues at work.

Of course, some level of white-collar stress is inevitable. But again, given the magnitude and pace of change in IT right now—from consumerization to “big data” to the high-profile importance of information security—retaining expert staff is vital. Bringing down the stress level is not only crucial for retention, but also for optimizing productivity, encouraging strategic thinking, and preventing mistakes.

How can stress be reduced? As the article notes, “providing realistic IT budgets and staffing levels” is ideal—but pressing for budget increases (particularly to hire more people) in this still-sluggish economic recovery is tough. So here are three other ideas for reducing the time demands on IT professionals.

Automate service delivery tasks. Are IT workers still manually chasing down approval signatures, scheduling resources, or entering data into long (and often redundant) online forms? Use workflow automation software in conjunction with email, calendar, and business management systems to automate approval routing and scheduling, and pre-populate forms with known data wherever possible.

Empower process owners. Instead of having business process owners describe their requirements to business analysts, who then write specifications for developers, who then write code to automate those business processes—give business managers the ability to build their own automated task workflows. Implement enterprise request management (ERM) technology that provides departmental managers with graphical tools for creating, testing, refining, and implementing their own process flows, with minimal technical assistance.

Hang up the phone, pick up self-service. Not only does self-service save money (by enabling IT help desk staff to process more issues in less time), users prefer it in most cases to using the phone. Providing employees with online tools to submit requests, and track the status of pending requests, not only deflects the initial phone call but also follow-up calls to “see where things are at.”

As the role of IT expands beyond managing business users and computing devices to all manner of digitally-connected things, the demands on IT professionals will only continue to expand. Making smart use of automation, empowerment, and self-service, among other efficiency approaches, can help IT professionals get more productive work done while decreasing destructive stress.

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