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Best practices for any business and IT project…and how to align business and IT better

I was part of an interactive session today the CRM conference in Las Vegas and three different customers from SAP spoke about how they aligned their IT and Business to have more successful projects ( is that not the ever asked question anyways ?)


The session was moderated by our own Jim Goldfinger from the Value Network organization and his 20 years+ organization was deemed enough for him to moderate customers from Moen, Day& Zimmerman and Celenase. They went into the basic AC’s of their background and then deep dove in sharing their experiences. What I found interesting was that most of them talked about the same things over and over again. Here are the key points and takeaways they got from their projects, which I wanted to share (and for better or for worse… some of these are basic common sense)


  • Have the IT director report direct line into the business and dotted line into the CIO, to have the IT department work much closer with the business folks
  •  Involve IT often and earlier in the process definition projects
  •  Keep lines of communication more open and also assume that IT folks might sometimes know enough about your business to suggest good alternative
  • Map out similarities and differences in process in multiple business units, document them and then measure change after the project has ended for success
  • Business should more heavily be engaged in the projects than 10  years ago. The people who have key roles should have some affinity with technology coming from the business side.
  • During go live use a power user model or a business advocate model, perhaps also sometimes include incentives, so that solutions provided to the business get better acceptance
  • Use a ticket management system to log all the business requirements and let the business prioritize first, it helps them align and IT can continue to spend their time on custom development instead of time spent on customer support
  • Have metrics in each project to measure the success of every project ( I was amazed that this one came up… I thought everyone would do this by now .. ok now I am being facetious )
  • The new age BPXer also can help to create training, evangelize the solution and identify business supporters. The should use wikis and online e-learning more to help companies scale  Use community tools to create internal communities.. Have moderators create fire and passion. 
  • One company structured their prject three ways: a supply side, a demand side and a project management side and then create a 12 -18 month roadmap and KPI’s. They created a BPX core group to help the processes along
  • Outside forces such as trends in the housing (slump) industry seem to force companies to change business process faster than if a project is more an innovation project with no clear outside in force. Finding them will help getting exec approval faster 
  • Projects succeed better if IT is not just an usher of business requirements which often does not match the vendors best practice capabilities. IT and Business should first use common sense, not over-engineer, do not always map the old application landscape to a new one ( basically do not copy one to one )
  • Have people who have the power and ability to say no if there is no clear business value. Sometime things might be important to one person which is not so important to the rest of the organization
  • Have IT do ride alongs ( shadow a business person for a week, look at the tools they use to do their job, etc)
  • Think beyond the existing project boundaries; think e.g. how the CRM project is affecting a BI project and vice versa.. often you can get synergies


Probably for many these are obvious yet not stated… so hopefully this summary will help some of the projects that just started along….carpe diem.



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  • Thanks Marco for the good practical tips that will definitely add value during the implementation of IT solutions in a business context. It is good to have an understanding of the IT Business alignment at the strategic level and the link of this strategic alignment with the tactical steps.

    Business is dynamic as market forces and customer needs are changing. Development in technology is also dynamic and at a macro level is influenced by the needs of the business.

    However, when an enterprise is trying to align its IT initiatives with business needs, he is faced with a challenging task of “firing a moving target sitting in a moving vehicle. This is more complex as there are dynamic interaction of business and IT at the market place which drives even changes in the business models.

    To help business to understand the alignment process, we need to think of two dimensions of business, the internal business structure and external business domain. Internal business structure is the business processes enabled by by internal organization structure. External business domain is the market including the customer.

    Technology also has two dimensions. An internal technology architecture that enables the business processes and an external technology market where dynamic change in the avaiable technology is experienced.

    Our challenge of business IT alignment is to find out the technology that can help the organization to run business processes to meet requirements of the customer within the context of a competitive marketplace in which the customer is a member. For example “How can I reduce the cost of serving my customer and improve his customer experience who is currently served by multiple agencies for the different products that are produced by the same enterprise?” This alignment is driven by a business need of consolidation of customer interface supported by an available technology.

    This alignment take a different shape, when a new technology is made available in the market that can improve the manner in which you carryout business processes to serve the client in a better manner. For example “How can I use RFID technology to serve the customer at a petrol pump?”

    We can see that this alignment is both ways. Business can ask for a suitable technology that will meet his business need to be more competitive in the market. New technology may drive business process change (in many cases even the business model) to provide better customer service.

    This strategic level understanding can trigger the tactical level initiatives mentioned in the blog by Marc. In fact the dotted line reporting relationhip of the IT manager to CIO and direct reporting relationship with business head is a tactical structure to ensure this strategic alignment.

    What is more important is the organization wide understanding of this dynamic linkage between business and IT leading to effective alignment resulting in business reorganization driven bu technology and IT enablement of business processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness of business processes.

    • Joseph, i truly appreciate your prolific detailed description of your learnings. Thanks for contributing to this discussion.

      How do you think we can with this knowledge help accelerate success rates at customer sites ?

  • Thanks Marco for asking that right question on how to make this theoritical understanding practical to “accelerate success rates at client site”.

    Success for client means improved business performance, which is sustainable. For example increase in market share, reduction of operating cost, improvement in margin etc.

    Now the question is how to make your business performance improving in a sustainable manner. Though there are many ways to improve business performance, when it comes to improving business performance using technology it becomes a bit complex.

    This complexity need to be addressed systematically at three levels Planning, Execution and Operation.

    During planning and before investment approval an effective dialogue should happen between business and technology on the potential value of the new technology. To enable this dialogue, there need to be a process of IT business alignment that looks into potential technologies in the market and its fit to the business strategy of the enterprise. This can be a process linked to the investment approval.

    Important success factors of this process are involvement of appropriate stakeholders and use of an agreed framework to carryout the evaluation on cost, benefit and risk dimensions.

    Most organizations consider these investments as portfolios which can be mapped and compared on a cost, benefit and risk dimensions.

    Execution is a critical stage where an effectively planned and evaluated technology can be wrongly implemented. A useful guideline is to adopte a robust methodology to implement solutions.

    To share an example from one of the SAP Implementation project, I found that it was extremely advantageous to use the ASAP methodology. Since most of us are traversing this path for the first time, there is value in using a map that is created by someone who had treaded there before. Most of the steps in ASAP methodology has devised to ensure that enough precautions are taken to engage appropriate stakeholders at the right time to ensure that the business IT alignment is done properly.

    Operation stage will bring in the planned benefits only if the solution is used as planned and executed. The only way to ensure that techhology is used appropriately is performance management. Create a structured performance management system that can ensure that the performance objectives that had driven the project investment are realized by the process owners.

    In a nutshell, there are three practical steps that can be taken to accelerate the success rate.

    Use an organization structure in which business-technology dialogue can happen within a defined framework to evaluate cost, benefit and risk.

    Define and allocate performance measures that are linked to the technology enabled business performance to both business and technology leaders with divided responsibilities (for example application availability will be the responsibility of the technical side. But running of the process as per design will be the responsibility of the business). Business monitoring tools can help in accurately monitoring these performance indicators.

    Adopt methodology. Inreasing adherence to methodology will improve the maturity of the process and will reduce the risk of failure and improve success rates.

  • Marco,
    You have summarized some very valuable key points, as have the respondents to your blog. Increasingly though, I see that if we are to sustain the pace of change in a SOA world, the focus on business process must dominate how companies function. The lessons learned presented by your 3 customers illustrate how one can bring IT and business together to work to deliver successful projects, but the question is: will that be enough for a full-fledged services oriented enterprise? The big change companies must engineer is to ready themselves to function in a way that eliminates the emphasis on pure heavy functional expertise and a project-based focus, in favor of a business process orientation and process-driven organization. In a forthcoming publication I am discussing just this point and presenting the case for what I have called the “Business Process Enterprise”. In the coming weeks, I will be introducing the topic within this forum in more detail. I believe that the BPXer is a key achieving tha state for any organization.

    ……..stay tuned….more to come on this….



    • Interesting phrasing: “Business Process Enterprise” I think people would like know more about your thoughts. One of the things I heard about last year was this model called the business process maturity model (OMG)

      I know John Alden and I think what they came up with was an interesting approach to assess how mature an organization is from a process maturity perspective. As per John Alden and Bill Curtis: “The BPMM describes an evolutionary improvement path that guides organizations as they move from immature, inconsistent business activities to mature, disciplined processes. The BPMM orders these stages so that improvements at each stage provide a foundation on which to build
      improvements undertaken at the next stage. Thus, an improvement strategy drawn from the BPMM provides a roadmap for continuous process improvement.” I have actually invited John to talk a bit more about it in our community, so perhaps he will be writing something soon.

      John presented last year at the OMG think tank summit and Sandy Kemsley wrote about it in a blog as well:

      perhaps you can weave that into the Business Process Enterprise story or tell us how it relates to it ?

    • Puneet,

      Looking forward to your introduction on Business Process Enterprise”. I hope you will address following issues in your discussion…

      How well BPMM will assess the capability of organization to choose the basic operating model (see paper no 359 on for the business, which will drive the Enterprise Architecture (as defined by TOGAF) and Standardization opportunities for the process.

      How quick existing organizations (especially the large ones) can move to such a flexible business process enterprise paradigm overcoming the legacy structures and organizational dynamics which are evolved from a functional view of point of the enterprise

      Can we see opportunities where a business process enterprise can be quickly establised? For example a new enterprise defined from  scratch can start functioning as a business process enterprise? How do BPMM will help you to setup such an organization?

  • If a company needs superior business it solutions, then it should resort to a reputed business which offers such services for a long period of time. Thus, it will have the necessary experience, products, and attitude to implement custom projects which already work.