Without this collaboration, it's almost impossible for CIOs to convince their management to make the necessary changes for a new way of working to take off. Nor will CIOs be able to successfully defang middle management, where most of the resistance against a new approach will come from.
Building deeper business and IT collaboration means understanding what each other's priorities are, standing by the other during testing times, driving one another, and jointly asking management to change some of its practices. This is probably what CIOs will spend most of their time doing because no one else can do it for them.
Step one in that direction is realizing that traditional methods of business-IT collaboration don't make sense any more. "The model in which business says 'here's what we need' and the IT team develops and implements it, is not effective. The right model is having a combined team led by the business that includes IT folks. We should stop calling anything an IT project. Business projects with a heavy dose of IT in it will drive the agenda," says Nadim Matta, senior partner, Schaffer Consulting; and president of the Rapid Results Institute.
The way Matta sees it, business and IT leaders should collaborate to bring together a team of business and IT execs, set them a challenge, and then get out of the way. The team then has 100 days to find a solution. It's an approach he has used successfully with Fortune 500 companies, whose very size builds silos.
This can be tough for CXOs because it runs against the grain of most leaders who are taught to be 'in charge' or lead from the front. And that's why, Matta says, it's important for CIOs who want to try a new, faster approach to get "air cover from at least one business leader," who sees the benefits of letting teams take over.
"If you have that," he says, "you reduce your risk. It also increases the odds that the investments a company is making in IT are going to deliver higher returns."
Vivek Khanna, VP of finance and information systems at Havells, tries to ensure that every project is driven by a business-led IT team. "CIOs must treat every project like a business project," he says.
That belief is what, he says, enabled his team to pull off two ERP projects back-to-back in a six month period--in Thailand and China. The ERPs, says Khanna, were meant for a company that the Rs 7,500-crore Havells acquired. While the ERPs used some templates, the implementation required a number of customizations, which as any CIO knows bogs down projects.
There were other hurdles as well. "Communication was a challenge. During training workshops, when the Indian team visited China, training sessions needed an interpreter and sometimes written communication. The entire change management process started from understanding their existing business processes, performing knowledge transfers via physical training sessions, conference calls and video conferencing," he remembers.
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