Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Enterprise as a Social Network

How will social networking be embraced within the enterprise? The enterprise is already a network of sorts bringing people together that all share the objectives and goals of the enterprise. People are coming together online outside of the work place to share common interests and opinion. Why not carry this over to the enterprise as a way to build collaboration across teams? One of the key success factors in popular social networks is organic growth. Let your end-users determine the reason connect. In an enterprise, they already have at least one common reason to connect......they showed up for work at the same place! But if the enterprise provides a platform for social networking will people use it? And should there be standards in place to use these networking tools as management and communication tools for a project? Project success or failure can be directly tied to the strength of the communication across a project. I am anxious to see how companies start using the tools that work so well outside of the office within the enterprise.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Add Market Research to your Project Plan

The number one mistake I see repeated time and time again is the project team assuming, within a vacuum, they already know what’s important to the end-user/consumer of a technology or a process.

A project equals a change within an organization. Whether you are talking about a new process or new technology it’s a change. The most effective change management strategies are those built on the basic principals of Marketing. The first rule of Marketing is “know your customer”. The same holds true when promoting your project. First, understand who the change impacts. Marketers do research before introducing a new product or message. They identify their target audience then talk to them to find out how they might use a new product or perceive a new message. In marketing this process of getting to know your customer is used to make what they are selling relevant to consumers. Conduct “market research” within your organization and get answers to:

  • Who does this project impact?
  • How is what the project will replace perceived today? What kind of baggage exists?
  • What are the issues today?
  • What are the real needs of those impacted?

Using a “Market Research” approach to engage those impacted during the planning phase of your project will help ease their transition into the new world and sets the stage for end-users to embrace the changes to come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Think Outside the IT Box

Complimenting the traditional system development lifecycle with the best practices in product and change management enables IT stakeholders to “swim further upstream” to understand the real goals of the business and to gain a deeper understanding of the processes that a new technology is required to accommodate.

The Product Development Lifecycle
Concept and Design -> Growth -> Maturity -> Decline

The following best practices, when applied during the first phase - Concept and Design, can be repeated in each phase of the product development lifecycle to ensure an alignment of vision and to keep the lines of communication between stakeholders open throughout the life of a product ( in the case of an IT project, product = system).

Step 1: Idea Generation Brainstorming

  • A pie-in-the-sky approach to getting to the real customer need.
  • Participants should include product owners (that represent the customer) and key IT stakeholders (those responsible for delivering the customer needs).
  • End-user Market Research should feed this process.
  • Benefits: This represents the initial alignment of business (those generating the demand/need) and IT (those fulfilling the demand and assessing feasibility)

Step 2: Create a Short List

  • The scope is narrowed from the brainstorm session.
  • Feasibility assessment is done
  • A formalized plan is developed for delivering product functionality.
  • Benefits: Further alignment of IT and the business; Clear and realistic delivery expectations.

Step 3: Proper Engagement in Concept Design and Development

  • Design and develop the new functionality.
  • This is where the IT project hits full capacity.
  • The Product Owner/Business should be engaged in each design and development iteration
  • Benefits: Further alignment of IT and the business; Continued product owner engagement allows for quicker remediation of unexpected changes to requirements; Further refines delivery expectations

Step 4: Promotion

  • Concurrent with design and development, the product owner/business should be promoting the new concepts/functionality to those impacted.
  • Benefits: Generates awareness and excitement about changes to come; Plants the seeds early with end-users and allows them to prepare; Presents the opportunity to establish and initiate the feedback loop with the larger end-user population.

Step 5: Testing

  • Formalized review and sign-off from product owner/business.
  • Benefits: Confirms what is delivered from IT meets product owner/business expectations.

Step 6: Roll-out

  • The new functionality is introduced outside the project team.
  • The next phase of the Product Development Life Cycle (Growth) is initiated with roll-out.
  • Benefits: The foundation for feeding the rest of the product development lifecycle has been established.