Piloting within IT

Something I’ve seen at multiple organizations is problems with the initial implementation of new technology. In the perfect world, every new technology would be implemented using a carefully controlled pilot that exercised the technology appropriately, allowed repeatable processes to be identified and implemented, and added business value. Unfortunately, it’s that list item that always seems to do us in. Any project that has business value tends to operate under the same approach that any project for the business does, which usually means schedule first, everything else second. As a result, sacrifices are made, and the project doesn’t have the appropriate buffers to account for the lack of experience the organization has. Even if professional services are leveraged, there’s still a knowledge gap that relates the product capabilities to the business need.

One suggestion I’ve made is to look inside of IT for potential pilots. This can be a chicken versus the egg situation, because sometimes funding can not be obtained unless the purchase is tied to a business initiative. IT is part of the business, however, and some funding should be reserved for operating efficiency improvements within IT, just as the same should be done for other non-revenue producing areas, such as HR.

BPM technology is probably the best example to discuss this. In order to fully leverage BPM technology, you have to have a deep understanding of the business process. If you don’t understand the processes, there’s no tool that you can buy that will give you that knowledge. There are packaged and SaaS solutions available that will give you their process, but odds are that your own processes are different. Who is the keeper of knowledge about business processes? While IT may have some knowledge, odds are this knowledge resides within the business itself, creating the challenge of working across departments when trying to apply the new technology. These communication gaps can pose large risks to a BPM adoption effort.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to apply BPM technology to processes that IT is familiar with? I’m sure nearly every large organization purchases servers and installs them in its data center. I’m also quite positive that many organizations complain about how long this process takes. Why not do some process modeling, orchestration, and execution using BPM technologies in our own backyard? The communication barriers are far less, the risk is less, and value can still be demonstrated through the improved operational efficiencies.

My advice if you are piloting new technology? Look for an opportunity within IT first, if at all possible. Make your mistakes on that effort, fine tune your processes, and then take it to the business with confidence that the effort will go smoothly.

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