Hands Up If You Are Signing Off an IT Roadmap

By Lisa Woodall

Every corporation has a similar picture and has told a similar story. You’ve seen that picture and you’ve heard that story.

It’s a picture with too many boxes and too many lines on it, and its story of a legacy IT estate, which is unsupported and fragmented, and a picture with far too many boxes and lines on it.

What amazes me is how that story of the “what have we got” misses the story of “how we got here.”

How do you think we got here?

I reckon it was the result of people just like you and I making decisions based on the information and the challenges of the time. The information, options, and challenges that you are presented with today they would have been presented with yesterday.

Every one of those systems on that picture would have had a business case, would have no doubt had a project team, and would have had some form of technical expert engaged.

If you turn back the clock you would see:

A few of those boxes (more than you would imagine) would have been the result of agreements to invest in project teams made up of analysts, designers, programmers, testers and trainers all following a project plan to get to go live.

A few of the boxes the result of agreements to invest having listened to software sales teams promising the land of milk and honey – future fit functionality and easy plug and play integrations.

A few of those boxes agreement to a quick fix, a tactical solution to solve a burning problem while the organisation waited for the strategic solution to go live.

A few of those boxes agreement to invest in “strategic solutions” of the past – those systems would have gone global in the business case but 3 years later ran out of time, money or became too challenging for the business to adopt so only a small percentage of the business migrated to it.

A few of those boxes the result merger and acquisition decisions where it ended up just being an acquisition and no actual merging of similar IT estate took place (even though provision would have been made).

A few of those boxes would have been the result of business divisions making decisions on what applications would be fit for their purpose, their products, their customers, their teams, their region, and they were, but would never have been fit for the organisation at large.

A few of those boxes would have been presented year in year out to have the investment to remain in support mode but a risk assessment undertaken and the business case to upgrade this year being de-prioritised- the lights didn’t go out and following year the same decisions made and now that box is 5-6 years from being in support

I could go on …

If you are part of a steering group or a committee trying to approve a plan to get out of this mess. If you are looking at the many permutations and combinations. If you are listening to the silver bullet sales team. If you are pondering over the optimisation of delivery or considering where you can descope based on today’s business priorities. Remember you are treading the path of your predecessors.

Consider the likelihood of getting the exact same outcome as your predecessors and leaving the same some might say more challenging picture for your successors i.e. more boxes and more lines.

If this story resonates – think hard when listening to the next CIO that’s sharing a plan to get out of this mess – think hard about what it means to have a long-term vision that will succeed your tenure and realise that some of the plans you may have inherited may need as much support as any plans you may have of your own – getting out of this mess is rarely possible within the short tenure of a leadership team.

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