Successful IT Projects More Dependent on Culture Than Technology
Just as many people adopt resolutions at the beginning of the year in an effort to enable better versions of themselves, so too, do many business organizations. Strategic new year plans and building roadmaps for the all-important “digital transformation” that so many companies seem to be obsessed with these days are all common activities in the first few weeks of a calendar year. (Whether there’s really much to the whole digital transformation concept is a whole other question—but one we’ll save for another day.)
Given the enormous range of new IT-focused technologies that companies are trying to integrate into their organizations, or are at least evaluating, these efforts are not insignificant tasks. From building out a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategy, to digital workspace driven desktop strategies, to enabling an AI-powered edge computing solution, there’s no shortage of incredibly impactful new technologies that companies are hoping to leverage in their efforts to improve themselves from an efficiency, cost, and productivity point of view.
Many technology industry vendors are, of course, focused on getting their messages out about the specific approaches they take to these and many, many other IT-related issues. Their primary goal, typically, is to describe how their solutions are better than those of their competitors, either from a functionality, cost, or ease-of-use perspective.
While these approaches are understandable, they’re actually missing what’s typically the most important factor in determining whether or not a particular project will be successful: the culture inside the organization. Specifically, for most big IT-related efforts to have their intended impact, they have to be embraced by C-level management and essentially pushed down into the organization. Without that executive level buyoff, many big tech deployments never achieve what they’re really capable of—regardless of how good the particular technology or product may be.
Of course, it’s understandable why many vendors are missing, or at least not concentrating enough attention on, this critical point: they don’t (and typically can’t) control it. Yes, big tech vendors and their deployment service arms (or partners) can work to make sure that their products are installed and functioning properly, but they can’t guarantee that people within their customer’s organization are actually going to use those products. Again, it takes a consistent message from top management to ensure that investments they make in new cutting-edge technologies are really brought into the day-to-day operations of their companies.
Too often, high-level execs will, at best, give only their financial blessing to a given IT technology investment, but then walk away without ensuring that it gets thoroughly integrated. Why? Because it’s often very hard to do and very time-consuming.
If and when a lack of commitment to full integration happens, and, subsequently, the projects don’t live up to initial expectations, the technology or product itself often takes the blame. To be sure, there are certainly numerous examples of products that really don’t deliver on what a vendor promises and that can’t meet a particular organization’s unique requirements. Again, however, in many situations the fault lies not with the product or vendor who sold it, but the customer organization. While it’s common to say that the customer is never wrong, if a customer doesn’t put the necessary measures in place to ensure that a given technology was incorporated into their business processes in the way it was intended to, then they are at fault. On the other hand, products that don’t really have all the capabilities that organizations need can still succeed if they are adopted and integrated with the right kind of approach.
So, how do vendors deal with this issue? Frankly, some of it has to do with better pre-qualifications of prospective clients. Sales reps need to spend more time getting to really know and appreciate the IT and management culture of their customers and prospects. Vendors should develop simple culture tests that help them better understand whether or not the potential customer organization is equipped to really deploy their technology in the way it was intended. Inevitably, the process will lead to tremendous reductions in frustrations, as well as time and money spent (or wasted, as the case may be) for both vendors and their customers. Plus, in an era when many vendors are focused on strengthening their brands and what they stand for, avoiding situations where customers are sold the wrong (or ineffective) product can go a long way towards maintaining good will with prospective customers.
Admittedly, a lot of these ideas are much easier said than done, and there are often extenuating circumstances that can dramatically complicate the simple examples I’ve provided. However, as we start to move into some critical new approaches to computing, including AI-based efforts, extensions to cloud computing, and more, it’s essential for companies selling these advanced solutions to spend a bit more upfront time with their customers to make sure they are putting the right kind of solution into the right kind of environment. It may sound easy, but it rarely ever is.