On Thursday June 5th Jenrick IT held its latest IT Leadership Event, titled “IT Leadership – maximising your impact and influence.” The event was opened by Gary Lloyd, an experienced IT Project Manager, Guest Speaker and Author, who put the following statement to a packed audience of IT and Technology Heads at the Guoman Tower Hotel:

“My last IT project was delivered on budget, on time, to the original specification, and exceeded the expectation levels of the client!”

In response, there was not one person who nodded in agreement – although there were an abundance of chuckles and shakes of the head. WHY? Gary followed up his opening statement with the statistic that less that 25% of IT projects are delivered on time, on budget and meeting expectations, explaining that delivering a successful project is no simple task regardless of the scale of the operation. So whether you operate as part of a four man team or make up part of the FTSE100 machine chances are it won't always be smooth sailing. Why is that? Unfortunately in a world of risk assessment and mitigation, critical paths and Gantt charts, there is not a definitive answer to the above. There's an indomitable smorgasbord of bugs and issues that can arise to cause the plotted course of your project to go awry, and like a snowflake, the simplest of issues will never be the same twice. However what we can provide is understanding and value Gary Lloyd turned his attention to the importance of implementing lean processes to maximise the business value impact of your I.T. Projects.

“Gary's manner of presenting is highly engaging and easy to listen to. Bringing context to the value.” - Mike Myers Project Manager.

When speaking with a number of the IT leaders after the event it was clear that two points really struck home: 1. Value depends on the context surrounding it 2. To design projects with delivery in mind Value really is in the eye of the beholder. Gary delightfully demonstrated this as such, a simple slide with two meals. One was a hearty, carbohydrate rich feast and the other a small but stunning plate of nouvelle cuisine – the question was “which would be of more value to a Sherpa guide working on the mountains?” When put into such straight forward perspective it is quickly realised that value is unique to those on the receiving end. It was also demonstrated that value is the benefit divided by the cost - this can be applied at all aspects of the project.

 Value = Benefit / Cost

  Gary also introduced the concept of “push vs pull” - the push being the requirements and the pull being the value. Whilst listening to Gary, it became clear that sometimes designing a project by 'the push of the requirements' can lead to completion of parts that aren't as important as others, instead by identifying and mapping the value stream you can design the project with delivery in mind, and subsequently deliver the project in chunks of value. When you consider that only 20% of features are only ever used within an IT software product, this concept makes even more sense. This again was backed up by a fantastic case study of a Grand Designs project gone wrong. Rather than delivering the most valuable aspects first such as the bathroom and kitchen, the family went without both for months, in time the house build project over-ran, went over budget and then finally the roof caved in. Now, we're not saying that the metaphorical roof would cave in on a project that was requirement driven however as Gary summed up...

“You can save a lot of money by testing business cases as early on in the process as possible” - Gary Lloyd

 

“It's making me think about how we run projects...” - Al Roseweir, architect.

After Gary Lloyd, we had the pleasure of having Vicky Ross speak to us about introducing flexibility of mindset in order to enhance your project delivery outcomes. Vicky is an expert in communications who is renowned for her ability to help Managers break down the science of communication thus enabling them to interact more effectively with their team. This is achieved through flexibility of the mindset. We were taught that flexibility is dependant on knowledge, which isn't necessarily our own. You don't need to be the best at everything but what you do need to know is how to empower those around you who have the knowledge, i.e. don't be rigid. Add understanding - understanding is being able to comprehend the behavioural tendencies of your team and/or client, together these traits will help you deliver. When talking to our leaders after the event it was clear there were two absolutely resounding messages that were going to be taken away: 1. Thoughts, Feelings, Actions = Results (T+F+A = R) 2. Why? Let me first explain the T+F+A = R model. How many times have you decided to change current results/outlooks by changing an action and then have it slowly peter out after a few weeks? Enter the classic January gym attendance, by February the numbers are already dwindling. This is because only the action has changed but the preceding thoughts and feelings have not. It's like a butterfly effect, you need to change your thoughts first as thoughts turn to feelings, feelings into action and then subsequently into results – results are a symptom of action. On this note, thinking about the future or 'future memory' is just as effective for inciting the right feelings of positivity to spur actions and results. For instance try this - 'In a year from now I will be... <insert dream/prospects here>, made you smile didn't it? This is why visualisation techniques are so well used by elite sports men and women to enhance their success rates.

“Future memory – it's about setting your sights. Thinking forward puts you into a position of perspective and achievement.' Gus McKie, project manager.

Another aspect that was distinctly noted was the 'why?' proposition. Let me ask you a question… At the beginning of this article I asked you a 'why' question and I bet your response started with 'because...' That is because 'why' is a judgement, 'why did you do that?', 'why did this happen?', 'why isn't this ready?' - When faced with a judgemental question our first response is to justify our own actions, hence the ‘because’. Vicky explained that it's much more productive to ask an open question, for example 'what was the reason behind this?', 'how did this happen?', 'when will this be ready?' These are effectively the same questions but the response will be thought about rather than a knee jerk reply to justify our actions.

“Think – we learn from our environment. Do – we do it, experience it and learn it. Be – we take what we learn and turn it into what we are.' Vicky Ross.

Vicky drew us to a close and after a short refreshment break Gary Sage, strategic advisor and currently in Head of Change at a FTSE 100 company, spoke to us about “The IT department – is it an island or a member state?”

“Gary Sage has gravitas” - Gus McKie

As someone working directly with the CEO, he explained how essential it is for the IT department to function in harmony with the rest of the company (the business) and not become separated. By operating as an island you’ll almost always be working with your head just above the water, but for what reason? ‘Islands’ have dictators and will lead the team in a ‘command and control’ fashion which doesn’t allow for growth or potential - reference back to Vicky Ross’s knowledge - don’t be rigid. Command and control is rigid at best and won’t inspire the team.

“Being an island is a quick way to die, being a member state is a way to change the world” - Gary Sage

So how do you move into a member state? It’s simple - demonstrate value and inspire trust. As an industry we need to inspire that trust in the boardroom, as generally the boardroom doesn’t trust IT with the business. Gary went on to explain that although the IT team doesn’t directly contribute to the bottom line, it does provide a substantial indirect impact upon business performance – however, unless these benefits can be understood by those who are directly responsible for revenue generation, the IT function will still just be viewed as a ‘cost’ rather than a ‘revenue enhancer.’ This now drew on Gary Lloyd’s ‘value = cost/benefit’ in a business perspective, as value = money (share price and profit). How do we start to encourage this trust? Once again, it starts, features and finishes with the people involved both internal and external of your team. Internally, you need to value your people to the point where they actively want to contribute to the bottom line, once more there’s the knowledge and understanding that Vicky discussed but also this heavily links in with T+F+A = R, change the thinking of the team? The symptom of this will be a changed result. Include lean processes and value based delivery you now have a forward moving team with the ability to save money for the business and deliver projects of value on time without costly diversions. Hello bottom line, hello boardroom recognition. At this point you can start presenting ideas and really contributing and making a difference to both your career and the company you work for. Granted it’s not every day you can walk up to your CEO, whisk him off to lunch and present a million dollar idea however it’s not unheard of and it doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t do it. On this note, as one of our leaders Rory O’Brian highlighted “you can’t just wake up knowing how to talk to a CEO” which is a very recognised point. I would love to delve further into this but then I’d be writing a novel instead of an article and I’m sure that’d be much better coming from Mr Sage himself. I’m digressing, back to trust…. To inspire trust externally you need to be transparent, for example how many times have you changed the RAG status of a project to get attention? When Gary posed this question it was met with silence but also a little bit of nervous foot shuffling.

“When you remove the trust you remove something very fundamental which is almost impossible to get back” - Gary Sage

A way to motivate that trust externally is to start communicating - face to face. How many times has a KPI or milestone been pushed back due to a lack of response to an email sent? In a previous role, I know I’ve been guilty of signing off ‘let me know how you wish to proceed’ at the bottom of an email and then moaning when I haven’t had the reply. The truth is they were actually a two minute walk through four sets of doors. If I had just made that walk I would have been able to get the response I needed straight away but also start that ever important relationship building. As Gary highlighted, we use email in a dysfunctional way - emails do not mean acknowledgement - you NEED a conversation.

“Email is proven but yes, I agree that the key is talking to people” - Glen Ralph.

Lastly, these events also allow us at Jenrick to really identify and understand (there’s Vicky again) the point of view of an IT leader and what would be required. I posed the following question to Matt Hancock a proven account manager:

Sami: “If you could offer one piece of advice learnt this evening to future candidates, what would it be?” Matt: “If I could offer one piece of advice to future candidates it would be to communicate with the business, see what the problems are and don’t think ‘this is my job so this is what I do.’ Think about how you can inspire and bring about change in the company as this could lead to the big game changing idea.”

So, what did we all come away with from the evening? From my perspective, it was to take more time at the outset of a project to gain a more complete and accurate understanding of the key areas of value that the Client is seeking to gain (Gary Lloyd). However, in order to gain this understanding it is helpful to introduce more flexibility into your communication (Vicky Ross) – and to do this, introduce more face to face communication into the project, bringing the people involved into a much closer productive partnership (Gary Sage). FURTHER INFORMATION AND RESOURCES:

  • To contact Sami Porter directly, please contact 01932 245 500
  • Please click here to connect with Sami Porter on LinkedIn

GARY LLOYD (Author of “Business Leadership for I.T. Projects”):

VICKY ROSS (Leading UK NLP Trainer and Executive Career Coach): Vicky Ross is a leading communications expert that enables business managers to empower their teams to do better business.  She specialises in Personal and Executive Mastery and has various personal programmes as well as business training packages to offer.

To view a selection of inspirational videos by Vicky, please click on the links below:

GARY SAGE (CIO Strategic Advisor):

  • Click here to connect with Gary Sage on LinkedIn
  • Click here to purchase 'Don't Eat Alone' by Keith Ferrazzi