Get Prepared to Cope with Issues
Experience shows that it is very difficult to plan every detail of IT transformation programmes ahead of time. A plan is usually more of a moving target that is evolved continuously. Besides normal variations there are a number of risks. Classic risk management practices should be able to deal with most of them; however IT projects have some special risks that have to be taken into account. Simply due to sheer complexity it is impossible to make software without any defects. The usual quality assurance measures and test-cycles can reduce the impact and quantity, but will never completely eliminate all bugs. Software is never perfect the first time.
Example: A large Asian mobile network operator introduced a new billing system and migrated all subscribers in one go to the new platform. Despite thorough testing and bug-fixing, it turned out that after migration almost 10 percent of the bills had issues. The programme management team was prepared for this situation by installing a manual quality check before bills were sent out to customers. This way, the affected bills could be withheld from the customers and the intelligence generated could be used to find and fix the remaining defects in the new billing system. At the same time, calls to the call-centre were only slightly above average and customer satisfaction was not impacted.
The transformation team has to anticipate this type of issues and establish respective mitigation measures. All stakeholders should be aware of this and not expect a sunny-day scenario. Besides avoiding disappointment of stakeholders, this can limit the potential business impact caused by such defects.
The CEO should request and challenge the risk mitigation plans of the transformation leadership. He can also help to engage other executive stakeholders in the risk mitigation plans and manage their expectations with regards to the expected outcome.
In conclusion, the CEO does not have to become an IT system engineer or architect to establish and ensure the success of an IT enabled business transformation programme. All described focus areas are non-technical but give can give the CEO without IT background guidance on how to get involved into the programme and make a positive impact whilst not getting dragged in too deep. If all practices are applied, the chances of success of the programme increase significantly, and many unfavorable impacts on the organisation and the business can be avoided.
Axel Winter, Deny Rahardio and Erik Koenen contributed to this article.
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