"Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from a friend's face"

Thursday, February 19, 2009 |

For last week's post, I derived my inspiration from the Art of War. Channeling Sun Tsu was fun, but today, I am switching to something far more peaceful - Confucius. Call it Tao Te Value of IT? In any case, this is an old Chinese proverb found in Tao - "Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from a friend's face." It surely predates Confucius, but he wrote it down. Sounds quite sensible, and yet the examples of non-sensible behavior persist when it comes to governance frameworks.

I type this after having the opportunity to review two governance frameworks - the shiny and highly anticipated TOGAF 9, and ValIT from COBIT. Doug Thiel also pointed me to Innovation Value Institute (http://www.ivi.ie), where yet another consortium is trying to create yet another unified value of IT framework. Forget frameworks - they should be classifying these as attempts at the Amalgamated Value of IT Theory (or AVOITT at all cost!). There is a reason I'm being rather punny about these frameworks - two reasons, actually.

First, each of these frameworks are written from a particular point of view. Technologists will be happy with TOGAF, Auditors with Val IT, and Operational folks with IVI. And yet, each of these frameworks seems to advocate being the "one right way in a dark and misguided world." Trouble is that while each of them is very thorough in covering their area of expertise, there are large gaps in other areas they purport to address. Yet another example of "man with the hammer" syndrome - or in for purposes of this post, "man with the hatchet" syndrome.

Second, just like the Theory of Everything being pursued by physicists, with superstrings and quarky dimensions, these frameworks leave no stone unturned. All the i's are dotted, and all the t's are crossed. Of course, one needs to kill a few trees to print each of these out. And for those executives who feel cold sweat when asked to sponsor a multi-year transformations in a big bang kind of way - well, the answer can be boiled down to "lead, follow, or get out of the way!" Trouble is, those executives are the ones who have to sign off on these transformations - in both budget and political capital. Given the kind of risk these approaches present to potential sponsors, why should anyone sign on? There are several large organizations that have looked at one or more of these and predictably recoiled. Especially in today's environment, the amount of risk is not something that can be ignored anymore. Perhaps each of these frameworks should come with a roadmap for implementation that allows potential sponsors to see progress (read: benefit realization) in shorter increments - say weeks rather than quarters/years.

Combining the two reasons above gets us to the quote of the day. Hence, the inspiration!



"Effort without planning is futile"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 |

In putting together the "Agility is Sensible" presentation for the IQPC Shared Services week, the project success rate stats really hit home -

  • In 2004, the Standish Group did a survey and found that 87% of integration initiatives do not deliver on their justification. 38% fail outright, and 49% underperformed;
  • In 2005, PMI study found that 72% of all projects underperformed in three critical categories: functionality, time, and budget. Of the 28% that weren't in that category, 62% are late, and 45% are over budget.
  • In 2006, KPMG study found that 65% of all mergers and acquisitions underperformed;
The key takeaway on my part here is not that projects fail. It's why they fail. In my mind, it comes down to the following four categories:
  • Doing the right thing
  • Doing the right thing in proper sequence
  • Doing the right thing with right resources
  • Doing the right thing the right way
In my experience, we focus almost all of our energies on the last bullet point. There are a bevy of methodologies out there. There are plenty of ardent supporters of each of them. But it is striking that with all the effort the industry has put forth to solving that bullet point, the first three remain more an art than a science.