We say we’re running IT projects. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re running business projects that just happen to be enabled by technology. Technology is often presented as a solution to everything. It isn’t. It’s only a tool. A tool is only as good as the worker. And workers are only as good as their understanding of the job. When workers don’t know what to do, IT projects fail, and failures like this happen far too often.
When 70% of enterprise IT and 85% of AI / Big Data projects fail, something is seriously wrong. There are a lot of very smart, hard-working, dedicated professionals on these projects, and yet, we’re not getting the desired results. What we’re doing is not working. It’s time for a different approach—one that puts the business first and ensures that everyone understands exactly what it is that the business needs to do. We have that approach—it’s very different from what most people have seen—but we can teach you how to get up and running in a matter of days. Click the links below to learn more.
How We Work
We’re not here to take over your IT department or run your projects. We’re here to teach you a way to finally solve one of IT’s most intractable problems, explain some cutting edge best practices, and backstop you while you master these techniques. We’ll work with you live online. We’re not instructors delivering a lecture nor contractors performing a role. We’re player/coaches. You’ll always have two in every session and they’ll always have decades of hands-on, C-suite experience.
Our coaches bring multiple perspectives to each client to provide a richer depth of experience, offer alternatives and transfer wisdom as fast as possible. We’re here to close the gap between what science now knows and what your IT department currently does so you can better serve your business and deliver for your customers. We’re big on the “teach a man to fish” thing, and we take a four step approach to do that.
Step One – Assess:
No two organizations are the same. We don’t know where (or even whether) you need our help until we understand where your team, project, and organization stand today. That’s why we start with an assessment that looks at two things—is your IT project (or department) covering all the bases, and are your assumptions reasonable? Think of this as a pre-flight checklist.
Although the territory we cover is exhaustive, this isn’t a long exercise. With 300 years of combined experience, we know exactly what we’re looking for. Assuming your team is available to meet with ours, we’ll have our answers in two weeks. After we review our findings with you, we’ll both be able to make an informed decision about what to do next.
Step Two – Instruct:
Assuming everyone agrees to proceed, we’ll start by laying a foundation. We’ll explain the problems we see, how those problems are presenting themselves and why they’re happening. We’ll explain how and why people fail to communicate, introduce you to the business execution lifecycle and show you a checklist that can be used to trace a business process and uncover the details necessary to automate and track it.
This is the “watch one” phase, but it’s highly interactive with time for questions and real-world examples. To ensure that everyone relevant to your success starts on the same page and that all questions are answered, we keep classes to a minimum of 10 and maximum of 20. Larger teams usually necessitate additional sessions.
Step Three – Model:
Once you’ve got the basics, it’s time to apply them. In Step Three we’ll work side-by-side with you to model the application of the principles, framework and checklist introduced in Step Two to either a current project or business process.
These workshops typically run one to three days and are led by the same coaches you worked with before. If something can’t be adequately addressed in three days—and we’ll work with you to properly size the effort—we strongly recommend breaking the project/process down into smaller, more manageable components. Our goal is to give you a complete, end-to-end illustration of the entire process before you attempt to tackle it on your own.
Step Four – Support:
They say you never learn something until you have to teach it. And then you’re usually shocked by all the things you thought you knew that you didn’t. Following the workshop, it’s time for you to take the lead in implementing what you’ve learned—but taking the lead doesn’t mean flying solo. We’ll be right behind you until you’re ready to fly on your own. We’ll support you—in whatever form works best for you from coach to fractional CIO—to fill gaps, answer questions, offer alternatives, and refine your mastery of the process.
What we expect from you. We expect you to be mentally present for our sessions. You can’t learn to fish, if you’re not on the lake! We hate wasting time as much as you do. So we want to make the most of our time together.
What you can expect from us: We’re committed to making excellent execution a reality in your organization. And we’ll follow our own framework as we work with you to realize that vision. Your success in this process is ours as well—because success is a process you embrace, not an event that you achieve.
The Business Execution Lifecycle Checklist
There are hundreds of reasons why large IT projects fail, but one reason towers above the rest. Tech industry analysts are nearly unanimous in this assessment—one issue brings down 75% of all enterprise IT and 85% of all AI / Big Data project failures.
The reason those projects fail is because teams never get a shared understanding of what it is that the business needs to do. You can’t automate a process if you don’t know what that process is. You can’t analyze the performance of a process if you don’t understand what that process is trying to do.
Business-people aren’t telling the technologists everything they need to know. And technologists aren’t asking the business the right questions to capture all the details they need to code or configure the system. Contrary to common belief, these oversights are neither intentional nor malicious. They’re not a function of incompetence. They are a function of human evolution. This is literally the way our brains are hard-wired to behave.
Neuroscience has learned a lot about the human brain in the last 20 years. One particularly significant discovery is that our behavior is frequently controlled by an unconscious auto-pilot that runs constantly in the back of our minds. More problematic, most people don’t know this auto-pilot exists, and fewer still know when it’s engaged. The primary function of this auto-pilot is to synthesize, summarize and make sense of large volumes of complex information. It performs these operations well, but it does so at the expense of accuracy and completeness—an enormous amount of detail is lost in summation. During IT projects our auto-pilots cause us to accidentally overlook critical pieces of data. Those missing details lead to gaps (or silence) in the descriptions of business processes and requirements. The silent voids created by those gaps can be fatal to the success of a project. To overcome this neurological impediment, we need to find a solution that does not rely on the vagaries of human memory to recall every piece of necessary information.
Sometimes the only way to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes, closed all the gaps, and filled the silent voids—that you have gathered all the information you need—is to literally check all the boxes!
The Business Execution Lifecycle Checklist is designed to do just that. It captures and documents requirements for both sides of the execution lifecycle. This open source, back-to-basics methodology looks at business execution in a new light and explains things you intrinsically knew, but in a way you never thought of before. Working this checklist makes the confusing, clear; the sophisticated, simple; and the ambiguous, definitive. By reducing detailed descriptions to writing, it also forces compliance with best practice and removes another potential source of confusion—divergent mental images of the same thing held in the minds of different people.
The Business Execution Lifecycle
The Checklist focuses on the business—not the technology. It’s a framework for process mining and an inventory of business needs, not a prescription of technology solutions. We believe that business needs always come first. We also believe that technology offers multiple ways to meet any particular requirement. But you have to know your needs before you can find the best solution.
It’s said that “it’s the simple stuff that’ll kill you.” The Business Execution Lifecycle Checklist helps you catch the simple stuff—details you probably would have overlooked—so you can eliminate the simple oversights that cause 75% of large IT projects and 85% of AI and Big Data projects to fail. By systematically applying lessons learned from neuroscience to a simple and elegant checklist that’s customized for enterprise IT projects, we’re filling the silent voids that hurt most projects.
Business Strategy to IT Execution
The executive leadership of an organization defines the business strategy—what it is that the business is trying to do. The IT department is charged with faithfully interpreting that strategy, providing management with options to reach their goals, automating execution of the tactics that are chosen, and reporting on performance. The last three jobs can be fairly straight-forward if you’re able to do the first job well—but properly interpreting a business strategy can be very difficult.
When “what it is that the business is trying to do” is inaccurately or incompletely communicated from business executives to IT things start to breakdown. And those breakdowns happen constantly—resulting in 75% of all IT project failures. For reasons that neuroscience has recently begun to understand business people struggle to fully communicate all they know, and IT staff struggle to help the business tell their story.
This impasse has often led to a misstatement by IT that, “We know what the business needs better than they do.” The truth is they don’t. It’s not that the business doesn’t know what they need. It’s that they don’t know how to explain what they need, and IT doesn’t know how to ask the right questions to get that information. Unfortunately, neither side knows that they don’t know.
Resolving these issues has never been more important—both because of the staggering losses involved and the on-going transition to a gig economy which will make those losses even worse. The more transient our workforce—the less we can rely on our worker’s tribal knowledge and institutional expertise—the more important it is that we develop business processes that capture, curate and preserve institutional knowledge so that the organization can thrive even when workers come and go.
Fortunately, we do know the questions to ask to help business executives fully communicate what it is they are trying to do. We also know how to encapsulate institutional knowledge in a process—and in a day or two we can teach your entire team how to do both. Contact us for a free consultation.
Cyber-Security from an Enterprise Perspective
Truly securing your enterprise and IT environment for your workers, partners and customers requires more than just installing software, following a checklist or adhering to a generic standard. It also involves more than a high-level risk assessment. You need to focus on those business processes, activities and system interfaces where the potential for exposure is most likely and the consequence of exposure is most extreme.
There’s another facet to this equation that should also be considered, but is regularly overlooked. You need to focus on the people who are responsible for those processes, activities and interfaces because an accidental exposure from an internal source—even with benign intent—can be every bit as devastating as the most malicious attack from the outside. Few seem to realize that humans are the greatest cyber-security risk that any organization will face.
To look at this problem holistically entails both engaging the business to address their objectives and concerns, and fully understanding their processes to identify those places and people that are most vulnerable. To do that the CISO needs to understand the business in explicit detail—because you can’t protect what you don’t understand.
The same communication failures and silent voids that cripple enterprise IT projects challenge CISO’s and their teams when they set out to understand vulnerabilities across their organization. Fortunately, our team understands both cyber-security and automated business processes in ways that very few do, and we can teach you the essentials in a matter of days. Contact us for a free consultation.
AI, Big Data & Reporting
As bad as the overall failure rates are for large IT projects, the failure rates for reporting and analytics projects are worse. Over 85% of these projects are complete write-offs—total failures. And the reason they fail? Again, our neural programming causes us to accidentally overlook critical details about our business processes. The result being that gaps and silent voids are created so technologists don’t understand what the business needs or what they should look for. You can’t automate a process if you don’t know what it is!
Our reporting and analytics work is based on a simple premise. Business is about doing something—it’s the process of moving a “ball” from point A to point B as fast and efficiently as you can while generating as much profit and growth as possible. Although there are thousands of variations on a theme, there are only three basic types of process performance measures: volume, velocity and efficiency. Understanding and improving that process is everything. And mining and mapping that process is the foundation of that effort.
Once the process has been mapped and process participants have been measured. There are only three questions that need to be asked to decide where to prioritize your scarce management resources:
- What’s ok, and what’s not ok?
- Who or what is involved? and
- What’s the cost?
Organizations often lose sight of this simple formula. They make matters worse by forgetting three critical facts. First, your reporting strategy for a process IS your management strategy. An organization will focus where their leadership tells them to focus and ignore what leadership ignores. Second, there’s only one reason to write a report—to answer a question about your execution and improve your competitiveness. If you can’t articulate a business question worth answering, don’t waste time writing a report. Third, if you tell a team to focus on more than 7-9 items, they’ll effectively focus on none (this is another one of our mental limitations). Rogue reporting silos and zombie reports (reports that have been around for years but that nobody uses) are far more harmful than most people realize because they confuse workers and distract them from what’s most important.
Our goal for every reporting engagement is to ensure your team learns how to do four things:
- Think through what’s most important for your business to focus on,
- Articulate the business questions you need to answer to better execute and compete,
- Define—in plain English—the logic your analysts and data scientists need to follow to analyze those questions, and
- Formulate answers that will enable you to immediately target your organization’s attention and maximize the bang for your management intervention buck.
We believe that people learn best by doing—so our training is hands-on and experiential. We’ll sit side-by-side (usually virtually) with your business-people and data scientists (process owners and analysts) and work with your actual systems and data to address the four objectives listed above. In just a couple of days we can teach you an entirely new—and far more powerful—way to evaluate performance. Contact us for a free consultation.