Here are two terms that really do not go together: best practices and unprecedented. They’re like oil and water – they just don’t mix. If you’re a senior IT executive, though, you’re probably caught right in the middle of them. On the one hand, you’ve built your career on the ability to adopt development best practices – learning from what you’ve done before, minimizing risk and maximizing efficiency. You’ve managed to deliver functionality – often exceeding expectations – on time and on budget.
Then along came 2020, where you’ve probably heard the word unprecedented an unprecedented number of times. How can you apply best practices in an environment that has no precedent? Rather than being able to adopt, you have to adapt to stay ahead of (or even on top of) the constantly shifting economic landscape. In other words, your organization needs to find a way to blend flexibility and stability into its implementation strategy. But what would this hybrid approach look like?
Shifting approaches: setting the stage for hybrid systems integration
The traditional linear approach to large-scale implementation projects must yield to new ways of thinking, especially during times of rapid and unexpected change. Even for those organizations who struggle to achieve agile at scale, blending old and new approaches can help transformational programs get unstuck and move in the right direction.
Traditional systems integration approaches based on decades of best practices have an important role to play – providing a stable foundation for operations to meet the baseline needs of users and create a framework from which to evolve existing solutions. Operational and innovation excellence do not need to be mutually exclusive goals. A flexible and contemporary hybrid approach provides the best of both worlds, reducing pressure on organizations who may not be fully agile in their pursuit to achieve their business outcomes. For a hybrid approach to work, organizations and their leaders should focus on the following five areas as prerequisites for success:
Create alignment and foster collaboration early
As programs grow larger, with more at stake, it is human nature to become more insular and revert to what has worked in the past. When complexity is introduced, pervasive collaboration is required to resist inward focus and perpetuating silos. Delivery teams must engage in purposeful and disciplined discussions to gain agreement on desired outcomes and the journey for getting there.
Embrace integrated planning
In a culture that has depended heavily on legacy systems, processes and centralized control, distributed teams and resources require orchestration at an executive level, to ensure independently empowered teams are driving towards the same outcome. For instance, developers, business sponsors and end users should be engaged throughout the planning and development process.
Assemble the right team
Systems integrations projects require empowered leaders who are available to make informed decisions and drive progress during significant change. As an example, in the case of an ERP implementation, the temptation to automatically assign the finance director, with an already full plate, as project lead doesn’t allow for balance between managing the day-to-day work and making project innovation a priority. This often requires a broader view of a traditional team. What are the tasks being asked of team members, and what are their existing priorities? What elements of these tasks and priorities could be automated or better accomplished with external partners?
Promote situational learning
Situational learning is essential for mentoring and growing ambassadors and cohorts of change agents. Traditional training alone won’t build the organizational capacity and knowledge transfer required for cultural change and successful implementation.
Maintaining an issue log with hundreds of entries isn’t an optimal risk management strategy. Through a macro view of the project’s risk profile, time is best spent in proactive, dialog-driven management of the risks with the highest probability of a negative impact.
The triple enablers: reimagining the model of systems integration
In the traditional project delivery approach, teams are pressured by the Triple Constraint – a tradeoff between time, cost and scope. Teams can, for instance, deliver faster if they increase cost and cut scope. These constraints aren’t going away, but they can be managed much more effectively with the triple enablers of a hybrid approach. In short, these enablers are:
- Business agility: Iterative development to deliver solutions the business wants and needs in progressive releases that avoid big-bang disappointments, over-runs and catastrophic risk
- Human-centered design: HCD methods help to create an experience that truly matters to customers and end-users, eliminating unnecessary (and costly) requirements
- Change management: Management of change to knock down cultural barriers and ensure enterprise-wide adoption and competency
These enablers are discussed in more detail in our newest viewpoint, Getting unstuck: Redirect your implementation strategy. In it, we examine ways that organizations can reimagine integration and implementations strategies.