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BLOG: 5 eternal truths of IT leadership

Martha Heller | July 10, 2013
Alcatel-Lucent's Robin Dargue has a bit of the philosopher about him, here he gives some of his 'eternal truths of IT leadership.'

I had the opportunity to chat recently with Robin Dargue, EVP Business & IT Transformation, Alcatel-Lucent. I realized half-way through the conversation, that Dargue has a bit of the philosopher about him, so I decided to structure our interview as a series of “eternal truths of IT leadership.” Enjoy!

Truth #1: The number one risk to a program’s success is a lack of sponsorship.
If you don’t have a sponsor, don’t do the project. To ensure that a sponsor remains engaged throughout the length of a project, use a gating process that continually checks that the sponsor is doing his or her part. If the sponsor’s engagement slips, fix the sponsorship or stop the project.

We test sponsorship on Day One of the project. If our sponsor wobbles at the very beginning, why get started?

Our gating process is a standard, off-the-shelf process. It asks: do you have a business case? Have you gathered the appropriate requirements? Have you tested? (I have found that many companies do not use basic gating; they start a project, fail to check in on it, and then wonder why they never finish.)

We also do a “lessons learned” session as soon as the project is complete. How was the delivery? Was the project executed well? And then six months later, we check in on whether we received the benefits we were after.

By the way, unless the project’s benefits are baked into the sponsor’s P&L, the sponsor is not a real sponsor.

Truth #2: The sponsor should be the lowest level executive in the organization who has oversight over the people impacted by the program.
In other words, the sponsor should be the manager who is directly responsible for the organization that is going through the change. For cross-functional projects, unless the COO or the CEO is the sponsor the program will fail.

Truth #3: You should organize your IT function so that it aligns with the business structure you want to achieve, not the one you currently have.
If your company is currently structured by localized business units, but it plans to operate more globally in the future, the IT organization should be structured globally before the rest of the company gets there.

Truth #4: It is a mistake to organize business facing IT leaders by business function, because every time the business restructures, IT has to change.

I’d rather organize my business facing IT leaders by business processes, because processes remain constant regardless of the structure of the business. We have business facing people for processes like lead-to-cash, supply chain, and finance, because those processes are so critical to our business. Those people focus on strategy, business cases, requirements gathering, and project delivery.


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