3 Ways IT Leaders Can Get Their Vision Back

October 20, 2014 Marcus Varner

By Eric Morgan, CEO of Workfront. Article originally seen in Wired Innovation Insights

shutterstock_144888331 With the uptick of consumerization of IT and project management tools within the workplace comes – well, more work. Teams within every division are completing work faster, more efficiently and, every now and again, even under budget. Yet, the speed at which projects are being completed and the degree of multi-tasking that an average employee accomplishes on a daily basis mean it’s harder than ever before for managers to have complete visibility into the work that is being completed by their employees.

As an example, Frank Grippo, director of web development at LexisNexis, discusses the conditions within Custom Web Visibility Group prior to 2010. He said, “What we didn’t have was visibility. At any given time, a manager couldn’t say how many builds or projects were in the queue, how many were late, or where each was in the process.”

Unfortunately, the blindness on display in Grippo’s story is not unique, but it is extremely costly. According to studies from the Management Science for the Knowledge Economy, 49 percent of IT projects go over budget, and 62 percent are delivered late. When you consider that U.S. companies alone spend $250 billion on IT projects, you get a hint of just how expensive this lack of visibility can be for IT leaders.

Beyond missed deadlines and ballooning budgets, this blindness also causes poor decisions based on gut feeling, fear or political pressure. It also makes IT leaders more likely to waste time cobbling together data and less likely to have time for thoughtful strategy. Fortunately, a few fundamental changes can restore sight to IT leadership. Here are three tips that leaders can use make to get back their ability to make smart, data-driven decisions and have more time to devote to strategy:

1 Make Communication a Two-way Street

Many IT projects are highly technical and require input from employees from across an organization. “Over-communicating” the status of a project or initiative, including a delay, setback or any other change in status, shouldn’t be lost within siloed divisions and teams.

Krzysztof Rakowski, a web applications expert, claims that effective IT project communication can be encapsulated by three words: explicitness, traceability and readability. He goes on to say, “Proper communication leads to the following outcomes: the pace of a project is sustained; team leaders maintain control of the project’s progress; people with different responsibilities and levels of involvement are better engaged in the project; and people feel their time is respected and well used.”

Remember that solutions like reporting tools and internal intranet services are extremely effective when all employees can communicate, report on the status of projects, and have visibility into coworkers’ bandwidth.

2 Implement Consistent and Accurate, Yet Automated Reporting

Automated reporting should not start and stop with your finance department. Monthly, weekly and even daily reports are appropriate depending on the priority and timeline of the project. Reports can even be scheduled to run outside of business hours so that they won’t hog your network and can be widely distributed to employees on all time zones.

The key emphasis here should be real-time or close to-real-time updates for both project managers and the management team of progress, potential pitfalls and status. The sooner the appropriate parties learn about the potentially harmful status of a project, the sooner he or she can rectify the situation. Depending on the solution you use, dashboard reporting can also be extremely effective to reveal the company’s position in a wide variety of business units, including marketing and digital projects, sales, and IT implementations.

3 Encourage Adoption

It’s normal for teams to be skeptical of new software. After all, new software means stepping out of your comfort zone, unsettling your routine, and climbing that dreaded learning curve before you fully grasp the technology. So team members fight adopting new software. Product management solutions are especially despised, with almost half of companies viewing them as only moderately effective and 26 percent deeming them “not very effective.”

So how to tackle the daunting challenge of adoption? First, get a solution that team members can realistically use. This will be a matter of give and take, so make sure it can work with the positive processes already in place, while replacing those processes or process voids that are hurting your team. Second, IT leaders must designate and train solution experts to evangelize to and train the rest of your team. Third, IT leaders should encourage their chosen software as their team’s software, even to point of refusing to honor other tools. With these supports in place, adoption (and the visibility IT leaders seek) is only a matter of time.

As technology continues to evolve in our workplaces, managers will expect more productivity from their employees. In reality, however, unless that technology is integrated successfully, team leaders may actually see an overall decrease in output as employees struggle to navigate clunky tools and inefficient processes. If IT project managers can communicate effectively with their teams, use accurate reporting to track progress, and encourage everyone to equally adopt their software solutions, they will enjoy greater visibility into workflows and ensure higher on-time delivery rates for their projects.

 

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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