Saturday, December 08, 2007

The trap of IT focused change

Sometimes we forget what the essence is of business change.

Picture an example situation: a business understands that they want to improve their customer relation processes. Several painpoints were found - complaints were lost, addresses of customers incorrect, wrong shipments, whatever. The company understands something must be done, and since data plays a big role, a project is started with a large IT component (and sometimes even a "communication plan" is included).
During the project a lot of effort is spent on the IT part. But, during the project the projectmanager of the IT part starts encountering various issues that he of she can not solve, and does not see as part of the scope. It's the " fluffy" stuff around business change - responsibilities in the to-be organisation, training, the full process, process management of the new CRM department, hiring people, etc etc. The issues get signaled (if we are lucky) to the steering group, but most of them are not picked up and acted upon. In the end the IT project delivers, stuff is installed, and hell appears: confusion, frustrated users, boycots, desperate management, and the easy one to blame: the PM.....


In the Netherlands we have a nice Dutch abbreviation that businesses are more and more using:
It's called COPAFITHJ. In essence it's a list of factors that you need to cover as a project/program, when dealing with change. It tries to make us clear that when changing a business IT is only one factor, and that time/effort/money/people will need to be directed to the other factors as well, to make a change succesful.

COPFITHJ stands for:
- Commercial: will our change effect our commercial position (products/services/markets, customer relations)?
- Organisation: will our change effect the structure in which people work, in terms of home base, power, communitity, management?
- People: will the change impact people, in terms of their role, communication, relations, work, responsibilities, required level of expertise/required training & coaching
- Administration, will the change impact required handling and storage of information, including reporting, etc
- Finance, will the change impact current and future budgets, allocation of budgets etc?
- Information, will the change impact the information we require and produce, to perform our work, answer questions and allow the management to steer our work?
- Technology, will the change impact the technology we have in our business? Software, hardware/infrastructure
- "Huisvesting" - Worklocation, will the change effect the psysical location we work at?
- "Juridisch" - "Legal", will the change impact our legal situation.

Is it a great abbreviation? I don't know. But I am glad I can use it to make people aware that change is something bigger than just IT. Too often I still see projects where on the basis of some vague improvement needed by management, some SME's and IT people start running the IT game (requirements, design, build, test), and sometime along the project the "Fluff" start hitting in, gets lost or given too little attention, and we end up with a mess...

The key lesson: approach your business challanges in a holistic way, and do this right from the start until the end. Do not think that IT change will magically result in change in the other dimensions. Focus on the complete business context.

As a sidenote: I am glad that BPM is getting more and more attention. It means that at least the P in the above abbrevation is getting more attention!


jnachtrieb said...

Great article. I commented anonymously earlier but upon re-reading your post, we're going to link to it, and invite you to reciprocate if you feel it's useful. I'll ask my webmaster to make sure you get our contact info, but we're at Thanks again for your sage words.

Jack van Hoof said...

Nice article, Roeland. But don't forget that there is also the viewpoint of technology creating new business. Starting to move is - physically - the ultimate change.

We didn't develop a train because we wanted to transport people, but it was the way around. First there was the rolling machine, this drove us to create business. The first airplanes were flying bicycles created for fun. Then we created business; the first business around airplanes was entertainment watching those flying bicycles.

In the current era of immense technical progress (much of it driven by IT), we should not make the mistake to view technology following business. The opposite is at least as valuable, if not more...

Technology explosions nowadays completely changes the way we look at doing business. It is not about doing things differently, but about doing different things - in order to survive.