Does IT alone deliver business change?

Does business change really come from IT deployments?

Technology is one of the the most popular vehicles for business change. However just implementing a new IT system itself doesn’t bring about sustainable change. As powerful as new IT systems are, they in themselves  don’t necessarily drive change.  To make change happen needs other elements to really make change happen.

The problem and the quick solution!

Let’s take a normal business scenario. A senior executive cannot get real insight into his operation. They instinctively believe the business is ineffective and resources are not efficiently used.   Typically, myriads of disparate systems, departmental spreadsheets are laboriously gathered to provide information upwards to the senior management.

To reach the higher echelons of the organisation, tens of staff, sift through information, polishing powerpoint slides to offer to the executives their collated views from the various systems.

Then a solution is proposed.  IT proposes to implement one system across all the departments.  This  will solve the issue and reduce staff numbers in the process.  A programme is set up to deploy the new and best IT system available.

After months (maybe years) the solution is deployed but the organisation is still in the same position as it was before – why?

Why does real business change not happen?

  • Budget. The most common problem is that the project or programme runs out of budget.  Sustaining effort for business change can cost as much as the IT system budget itself.
  • Old ways in new systems. Unfortunately what usually happens is the new IT system becomes a newer version of the old systems that were in place before. Old ways of doing things are replicated in the new system.  Although the wish is to operate in new way, the prime goal is to deploy the IT system within the budget window. Once the IT system has been deployed, then the belief is that change will happen automatically.  Sadly – it never does – at least not without some major effort.
  • Sponsor fatigue.   Sponsors are human and see the success of the IT deployment as way to enhance their position or status.   The probably know that business change hasn’t happened but want to glow in the physical deployment of the IT solution.  At least it’s tangible!
  • Switching seats.   Senior managers move! A common occurrence is the original sponsor moves on or takes another position and doesn’t see through the real business change aspects of the programme.  The new incumbent sees things differently and has new priorities to focus on.
  • Lack of rewards or recognition for change.  Even the smallest of change should be rewarded.  What may seem insignificant for a senior manager has big  impacts on lower levels of the organisation.  Without recognition, teams will fail the implement new ways of working.

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