Small steps to a better IT spend
The first is to create what he calls a “burning platform”, a sense of urgency around the need for the project. “Nothing focuses the mind like impending doom,” he explains. “Sometimes there will be a ‘clear and present danger’ within the organisation but at other times it may be necessary to clarify threats as presenting real risks to the company.”
The next step may sound like basic common sense but it is one often overlooked by managements in these situations.
“You need to secure senior support from the right people for the project. This might be department heads or can go all the way up to the chief executive. The most important thing is getting the right people onside.
“There is little point in having a middle manager from the marketing department being the main champion of your project if nobody listens to him.”
Personal contact is essential. “You have got to get face-to-face. While it is possible to have teleconferences and so on, if you want to get a common understanding of what it is you’re trying to do it’s best to do it when you’re physically in the same place. You can tell a lot from people’s physical reactions. This is vitally important at the beginning of a project when you need to build that shared understanding.”
Once that understanding is built it’s a question of getting people excited about the project. “You need to fire people up and get them committed to the change. They have to feel excited and enthusiastic about it so that they will support it in the long term.”
But there is little point in getting people excited about something which can’t be measured.
Firing people up to work on something that makes no discernible difference in the end will be counterproductive.
“You’ve got to figure out a way to measure clearly what you’re doing,” McGee argues.
“In a way, you’ve got to be willing to name and shame the areas that aren’t working or delivering. That might sound a bit strong but if you are trying to change behaviours – and most major IT projects require that – you’ve got to do this. A lot of IT people have a habit of just announcing ‘we’ve gone live’ and seeing that as an end in itself. But that’s not the end at all. You have to identify the things that need to be done differently to bring down costs.”
McGee’s next piece of advice again sounds very much like common sense but it is another one of those things that get overlooked.