3 things every corporate IT manager should do #1: Cancel all your projects

It’s no surprise that start-ups learn a lot, fast, or fail. It’s true for us too.

So we were kicking around what we’d do differently if we were plunged back into the corporate IT world today and whilst your opportunities to be radical are limited (you’ve got a pension to protect, right?) there are some lessons from our world you can apply to fundamentally change your capability for the better.

We came up with three things. Today we’ll discuss the first:

Aggressively & radically reduce ‘batch size’

The concept of reducing batch size is well understood but infrequently adopted. A lot of corporates adopt some agile techniques but then demand adherence to a project methodology which causes features to be piled up into increasingly large releases. The ‘build/run’ mentality is still prevalent and projects are justified on largely subjective ROI calculations.

Aggressively pursuing continuous small changes reduces the importance of the ROI allowing the focus to be on making the change. Where a series of IT changes are a vital part of a business initiative  it’s the business initiative that has the ROI and IT is an enabler. It’s either needed for the overall ROI, or it’s not.

“Surely”, you may say, “that series of IT changes needed for a business initiative is a project?”

Hold true to your principles; regarding all requirements as a series of operational changes ensures that the changes are operable, i.e., actually work. This eases the path of the parent business project.

This also means the development team have to live with the operational constraints of the product. It makes for a better subsequent version if you have to eat your own dog food.

In fact, corporate IT projects are the only place we expect a new team to drop in, understand the processes and deliver business value. An ongoing relationship supports deep understanding of customer needs better and makes the changes so small that there’s reduced  focus on making up ROI figures.

Therefore we’d abandon project constructs altogether and align permanent, continuously improving workstreams to business needs (not necessarily departments). Each workstream would:

  1. Use the smallest batch size possible to deliver incremental change direct to the business.
  2. Require a vision, strategy and continuously optimised product suite – just as a lean start up requires them.
  3. Absorb new initiatives into its backlog, or be created in response to a new business initiative – but once committed, would be regarded as permanent.
  4. Set it’s own priorities.
  5. Have it’s own budget & resources/allocations (but hey, you can lend out your experts if required).

So you don’t need to fire everyone or try an outlandish, career limiting pivot in order to deliver the benefits of a lean start-up in a corporate. You just have to think ‘product’.

Perhaps that’ll be part 2, which we’ll publish next.

 

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