Digital 360 & The Journey Beyond Cobb’s Paradox

Digital 360 & The Journey Beyond Cobb’s Paradox

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Today, CIOs are under more pressure than ever to deliver agile IT transformation that aligns with and accelerates business imperatives. Fortunately, there are tools at hand to help them on this journey, says Ashley Gatehouse.

Digital 360 & The Journey Beyond Cobb’s Paradox

Back in 1995, a Canadian Government IT specialist was reviewing the outcome of a series of complex information communication technology (ICT) projects when he came out with a phrase that would come to haunt enterprises for years to come.

“We know why projects fail; we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?” mused Cobb.

Today, that all too familiar persistent and common phrase is known as ‘Cobb’s Paradox’ and over the years evidence suggests that rather than improving, things may have been getting worse when it comes to the delivery of IT projects.

With so much at stake and large IT projects often coming in way over budget, there are also very real operational risks posed when things goes wrong. By 2012, a study from McKinsey in conjunction with the University of Oxford suggested that things hadn’t improved much. At that point, with 17 percent of large IT projects veering so far off course they threatened the very existence of the companies involved. These large IT projects with prices tags of over $15 million were also running at nearly 50 percent over budget whilst delivering 56 percent less value than originally predicted. To put that into perspective, at the time the aggregate cost overrun of these IT projects eclipsed $66bn – more than the GDP of Luxembourg.

Fast forward to 2017 and although there has been some improvement, a report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) suggests that around 14 percent of IT projects still end in failure. Adding further context to this is the fact that of those projects that didn’t fail outright, 31 percent didn’t meet their goals either, with 43 percent coming in over budget. A further 49 percent were delivered late. So, for every $1 billion invested, firms were wasting $97m due to poor project performance.

Such statistics make tough reading for CXOs as they attempt to deliver increasingly complicated projects against a background of belt tightening and budget cuts that has typically seen a reduction of in house specialist staff and skills within the IT function.

Of course, the nature of delivery has also changed and new techniques and methodologies such as agile and DevOps are helping enterprises to deliver upon board requests and management priorities. Yet projects are still failing, with reasons ranging from lack of executive sponsorship and user buy-in to poor collaboration between the IT and business functions, as firms falter from a lack of direction and consequently distrust from users.

Clearly, strategic planning that defines key metrics and marries these with business objectives is key. Enterprises must think about how projects are resourced, how they align and stay aligned with desired outcomes, the timeline for doing so, how they avoid poor governance and critically, how they keep on budget.

For the beleaguered contemporary CIO and their team, it’s a lot to think about, so what should businesses be considering when they embark upon their digital transformation journey?

Firstly, remember you are not alone. Success is only truly achievable when technologies, stakeholders and business needs are all aligned, so it’s important that you have a formula for keeping these on track.

The good news is help is at hand in the form of new and FREE to access digital transformation frameworks, such as Digital 360, that provide solid guides for CIOs and their management teams attempting to take enterprises on this journey.

Consider how such methodologies can help keep project lifecycles on track. One of the main problems associated with digital transformation and delivery is the changes that occur in business priorities and objectives over time as builds take place. By being able to closely monitor where you are in your project lifecycle you can ensure effective communication and collaboration between IT and the business it serves to prevent the risk of a misalignment developing.

Moreover, by aligning with worldwide industry standards and best practice – such as ISO and ITAM – Digital 360 will allow you to regularly self-certify where you are within your project lifecycle and provide automated suggestions to ensure that no stages or elements of your project plan remain incomplete. In addition, it provides technical service proposals to help you at each stage of the project in case you lack relevant in-house expertise.

So how does it do this? Firstly, the solution breaks your proposed IT project workflow up into five core actionable steps based on accepted best practice frameworks – Business Needs, Solution Design, Transition to Cloud, Manage and Governance.

This allows you to devise and plan every stage, minimising any chance of a disconnect from the start. In Business Needs, you can set out the scope, constraints, and expectations for a project. It’s here that you can create your vision for the business, define who the stakeholders are, validate any solution with the business context, and create a statement/s of work before obtaining approvals.

The next stage is Solution Design. This is where you can develop target architectures and define the types and sources of data needed to support the business in a way that can be understood by your stakeholders. Here you’ll also define the kinds of application systems necessary to process the data and support the business. Furthermore, Digital 360 allows you to develop data architecture reports and applications architecture reports, as well as showing gap analysis and impact analysis results.

Once you’ve done that you can move onto the next stage: Transition to Cloud. At this point you’ll be able to sort the various implementation projects into a series of priorities for the business. In doing so, you’ll produce a prioritised list of projects that will form the basis of the detailed implementation and migration plans whilst generating an impact analysis, including an architecture implementation contract.

By the time you get to stage four, Manage, you’ll be concerned specifically with the services offered and what will be delivered. In particular, this deals with the required service levels, availability, continuity, financial viability, security, and the necessary IT infrastructure capacity that you need to make your project a success.

Governance is the last stage of your digital transformation journey, you will be looking at how to monitor and move in line with everyday changes to the business that may affect the delivery of your project. This enables you to assess those changes and ensure you have developed a position to act and perform appropriate governance functions, including budget management, contract compliance, data management and cyber security, whilst the system is being implemented and deployed.

By focusing on what you are trying to achieve and breaking it down into these five core steps, CIOs can minimise the risk of failure and keep projects on-time and on-budget to mitigate risk and realise business objectives.

I am the Group Chief Marketing Officer at Crayon. My team are focused on driving enhanced lead generation campaigns and nurturing for our sales organisations across multiple geographies though the utilisation and coordination of all online and offline communication channels. We are driving increased brand awareness in the business's core competency areas of Software Asset Management (SAM), cloud and volume licensing solutions and associated consultancy services. I have over 20 years of senior business leadership experience within direct marketing/direct sales and mass distribution businesses, in both the B2B and B2C markets serving on the boards of both private and public multinational corporations.