When implementing a technology project, whether major or relatively minor, it is easy to forget the value and insight IT leaders and project managers can bring to the process being impacted. This is something that is often forgotten not only by business leaders, but by IT leaders as well. Much of this can be attributed to the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude. This must STOP!
As stated in previous posts, IT is in the unique position to see the impact of changes across the organization, not just in the primary area impacted. But, while it’s one thing to see it, it’s another to actually DO something about it. How often does this happen? A business leader makes a decision. The IT staff follows orders and provides the IT solution that does what the business leader said he wanted – all the while wondering why such a “bonehead” decision was made due to the implications on the business further down the process. The thoughts often go like this, “Hey business leader, you asked for a solution; I gave you what you asked for. Not my problem if there were other issues because of your decision. That’s not part of my job.” IT leaders will cringe at the thought of their staffs thinking this way, and will swear up and down it doesn’t happen in their shop – but it happens, more than we would like to know.
Here’s a way to avoid it. When I was working with a $1 Billion regional healthcare organization with multiple IT systems, the IT project manager came to me with a problem (one core system solves the problem, but that’s another issue). The organization wanted to launch a branch of the rehab hospital inside of one of the existing acute care hospitals. His job was to get the IT systems up and running. They had just had a meeting where the acute care hospital president stated he wanted the rehab branch on the same IT system as his hospital. To him, it made sense to have all the patient information on his system (primarily for accounting purposes), since the rehab branch was in his hospital. The problem was, as the project manager explained to me, that the rehab hospital and all its existing branches were on a different system, and the physical therapists staffing the branch could come from any of the branches, so they would have to learn and know 2 core systems. Also, it was planned that patients would transfer from the rehab branch at the acute hospital to other less specialized branches as their condition improved, creating duplicate entries when the patient went to another branch. And, to top it off, the additional work to write and test the multiple interfaces put the project’s timing at risk. But, the president said he wanted the rehab branch on his system, so that’s the direction the team was taking. I asked a simple question, “Does he understand the consequences of his decision? Did anyone explain them to him?” The answer was, “No, he’s the president.” My advice, “Then you need to. He’s a reasonable person, lay it out and make sure he is informed.” And he did. The president realized the implications of his decision, and quickly reversed it, keeping in mind what was best for the organization as a whole.
When a business leader makes a decision about the direction of a project, and you know there will be unintended consequences, speak up. No, not in front of everyone, but in a one-on-one session (always remember to use tact – never intentionally, or unintentionally, embarrass the boss in front of others). Collect the information and what you believe to be the consequences of the decision and present them in a logical, concise manner (keep your boss informed as well – whether or not your boss attends will depend on your organization’s culture). Then if the business leader still makes the same decision, at least they have done so with full knowledge of the consequences, and you have done all you can do to keep them informed. Then, you may sleep better at night…. or want to update your resume.