Seven IT Business Partner Challenges

That Causes Delay To Next Year's Budget Approval

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter

Image by 15299 from Pixabay

Still Chasing Sign-off for Next Year's Budget?

 Are you currently going through the exercise of what's in or out of your project list for next year?

I've been there and frankly it's never a satisfying experience for any participant in the process. Estimated Project CAPEX spend: £9m. Budget: £2m. What gets cut and how do you decide? Darts? Endless rounds of governance meetings that argue the relative merits of projects only to be over-ruled by the CEO? As a consequence of this, the actual budget for next year may not even get approved until three months into the new year, giving 9 months to deliver 12 months worth of work! How did we get here? Below I list some common challenges that contribute to this scenario and suggest some possible though not easy remedies.

Odoo CMS - a big picture

1) Executives request technology resources that don't align to corporate strategy or the corporate strategy is open to interpretation.

Consistently work with them to articulate their intent in a format that can be compared systematically with other functions and divisions. This activity can then demonstrate the amount of alignment (or not) and hold them to account on creating clarity and direction.

2) There are conflicting or duplicate project requests made to the technology function.

Using the same strategy communication format above ask which outcome in the strategy does the project relate. If there are projects that contribute more, then they are a higher priority. If there is no contribution, then those projects should be stopped or not started.

3) The inability of executives to communicate their vision beyond prescriptive project requests or without sufficient notice.

Define in their language the gap in capability that prevents them from achieving their vision and identify technology trends/solutions that can in part close the gap (notwithstanding process, skills or data gaps). Pre-empt their prescription with research to help them understand what options are available to them.

4) Too much demand overwhelming the technology function.

Through alignment and contribution to outcomes, it is possible to triage the highest value projects first and descope others. By identifying the number of projects completed last year and those projects in progress this year, one can quickly help executives understand there is more chance of delivering at the rate of previous year's throughput rather than the current year’s work in progress. 
Other techniques based on LEAN Kanban principles such as regulating flow, removing bottlenecks, multi-skilling, standardisation of activity, and pulling demand forward only when there is capacity are much more effective at generating reliability and consistency.

5) There are projects not delivering the value anticipated, being late or over budget.

Use issue logs and lessons learnt from previous, similar projects to inform both upside and downside risk log for the planned project. Understand what the mitigating activities and their cost were to inform the contingency required, re-plan the workstreams and validate whether there is still a business case.
For new, untried projects, allocate a research budget where prototypes and other experiments provide the early warning of viability, risks and lessons learnt through failure in a controlled environment.

6) Business cases approved on a “first past the post” basis with CAPEX left unspent at the end of the year.

This challenge is symptomatic of a lack of senior analysis and innovation capacity – in other words, OPEX spend upstream. Revisit the balance of CAPEX / OPEX spend. If there is more OPEX spend, then there is more longer-term competitive advantage potential. Take a 5-year view of your CAPEX / OPEX budget. 
Define a 5-year rolling roadmap with the most urgent capability gaps identified first in the roadmap so projects, products or services can start to be validated that COULD fill the gap. If feasibility studies select a RANGE of options as part of their contribution to the outcome sufficiently far in advance, then by the time it is necessary to implement, the BEST fit solution can be selected on a risk/return basis.  

7) Projects or services not being measured on the value defined.

Add budget for analysis to be undertaken during and after the project is completed to assess the contribution. Create a quarterly review process that has a cross-functional team to monitor KPI's and report back findings. Use the resulting gap to trigger continuous improvement exercises. Reserve space in the roadmap for those continuous improvement projects.


You Pay For What You Get.

If the executive board want to see more reliability and consistency in the delivery of their programmes, many of which require technology enablement, they need to fund adequately the following aspects:

  • Upstream research and feasibility.
  • Ongoing measurement and review of performance
  • Capacity for continuous improvement.

Rushing isn’t Necessarily Progress. 

My research suggests that while many organisations function at a certain level of maturity, they don't perform at a high enough level to drive sustained long-term competitive advantage. This is driven also by a lack of skill. 

In addition, reducing the project work in progress is fundamental to help people focus on what is core to survival and growth. Starting projects may feel good to all concerned, Finishing the right projects feels even better.

Enabling Sustained Long-Term Competitive Advantage.

Sustained long term competitive advantage is only attained at the highest level of maturity, which I call the “Strategic Partner” level. This is where business units work together on common goals and are therefore more effective in arbitrating on the essential activities that drive success. To attain this level, the organisation requires a sense of urgency, a change in culture and a building up of competencies in 5 key domains: Relationships, Value, Strategy, Portfolio and Organisational Change.
These competencies form the basis of my proprietary framework – “Reconnaissance For IT”® and can be enabled in the client organisation through a variety of interventions:
  • Diagnostic.
  • Change Management (long term secondment with a programme of work informed from the Diagnostic).
  • Custom onsite training.
  • Convergence Essentials® and Convergence Accelerator® public workshops.
  • Individual or group coaching.
  • Online training and coaching.

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