IT Success: Never Let The SI Take The Wheel

Large IT projects frequently fail. One of the SIs (the usual suspects) is invariably involved. So are the SIs in some way the villains – or just unlucky to find themselves, so often, innocent bystanders at the scene of the crime?

Client organizations don’t do major systems projects every year.  SIs do them for a living. So it’s natural that clients look to leverage their SI’s expertise, a tendency reinforced by the SI’s pitch: ‘We’ve done it a hundred times. Just trust us…’.

It’s understandable too that, once the SI has been selected, clients most often sigh with relief – and surrender to their comforting embrace. Willingly seduced, they allow their SI’s methodologies and tools to dictate almost every aspect of their program.

The client and the SI have conflicting agendas of course, in at least two vital areas:

Business Transformation vs IT Project. The SI is hired ultimately to deliver an IT project.  So the SI will always focus on the technology issues.  But all the evidence suggests that projects fail when they neglect business stakeholder engagement and lose sight of wider business perspectives.

Sustainability. The SI has a project focus, often strongly reinforced by contractual incentives.  The SI needs to get the system delivered so it can get paid and move on. Whereas the client has a longer term and more holistic perspective. The client is looking for sustainable improvement.

These conflicting agendas can be worked out – through an ongoing dialog driven by the client, which must retain responsibility for staying in control of the SI relationship.

But most client organizations just don’t have a collaborative framework to enable this essential dialog in any productive way. The result is that the SI usually takes the wheel.  And so the focus shifts to the IT aspects and the system go-live, significantly increasing the risk of project failure.

Straws in the wind suggest that things are changing. IT projects that I know of which have adopted Nimbus have also reduced the SI’s role.  By spending less, they seem to get more. The client avoids capture by the SI, and so can ensure the effective collaboration that prevents ‘a business transformation project enabled by IT’ degrading into ‘another IT project’ – significantly increasing the chances of sustainable success.

Essentially, the client gets to focus the SI on its core competences – and avoids the cost of man-years of consultants leading low-value process workshops in airport hotels.

Related Posts

29 Oct 2012    IT Project Failure: How Did We End Up Here?

23 Oct 2012    Mapping The Stakeholders in GBS Success

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

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