Over the last week, we’ve been working on the last chapter of our book, which goes through the process of how to define a technology strategy through a project. In some ways, the projects we execute don’t appear on the surface to be that much different than the way we did them 5, 10 and 15 years ago. In some ways they don’t appear to be that different than the ways other consulting firms usually do them today. And yet we know and our clients tell us that our projects are unusually effective. So we have been pondering… what is it that’s different about our process? The model we use to frame the analysis and the approach we use to refine our thinking are both unique, but the process itself seems pretty straightforward… on the surface.
At the very highest level, we always go through some sort of assessment (to understand where we are), a strategy/ design (to clarify where we want to go) and a plan (to lay out how we get there). But there are a few things that we do consistently as part of that process that many projects gloss over or cut out entirely to save time (money) or avoid difficult conversations. And we believe these are the items that make us most successful:
- We conduct thoughtful interviews with senior stakeholders, the people who make or influence investment decisions around technology. This is THE most important part of the assessment. We are scrupulous about the topics we cover with everyone and the individualized questions to ensure we maximize our 45 minutes with each person. We don’t skip this step because some or all stakeholders have already been interviewed or because we think we know what they want.
- We actually do an external assessment. More than ever, companies must look beyond their walls to include their customers and their markets in their assessments. They must consider the direction of the industry. Technology strategies have long focused on internal improvements and these days that will never cut it.
- We do an “assessment review” at the end of the first phase to validate our findings and check our initial hypotheses on the strategy. This is the most critical group meeting of the entire project. It is the moment we all agree to the problems we are trying to solve as well as the opportunities we can leverage, and also get initial agreement as to how we are going to go forward.
- We actually define the vision. It is so tempting to go straight from a list of issues to a list of projects, but without the vision to connect the two, the implementation plan will break down very quickly. It is very important to define what the organization, technology and delivery model will look like in the future in support of the overall strategic vision.
- We make the strategy actionable through clear project overviews. Sometimes, but not always, we take this all the way to a detailed project plan and/or a full business case, but at a minimum, the approach, deliverables, timeline, resources required, high level benefits and costs need to be outlined. We get it to the point we could hand it over to a project manager to get started.
None of the above items may seem that unique, but I assure you, many projects skip some or all of the critical steps. Getting all five of those items done in an average of about 8 weeks is a challenge!