Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 2

In the book, There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project: A Handbook for Intentional Business Change, Bob Lewis and co-author Dave Kaiser analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about IT and business management.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

In “The New Business/IT Conversation” chapter, Bob and Dave outlined three types of business change that can benefit from better information technology. They are 1) business function optimization, 2) experience engineering, and 3) decision support.

Business function optimization is about getting the work done and done better. Experience engineering is about improving the experience everyone has when getting the work done. Decision support is about helping decision-makers make more effective decisions. Facilitating and making these types of business change happen should be the standard of competence for all IT organizations.

For IT, the question we used to ask was, what does the business want the software/system to do? The new question IT should be asking is how the business wants to do its work differently and better?

Business processes (how the product/service gets put together) and practices (the organization’s knowledge and experience) are different. They are the two poles of the continuum of how the organization gets its work done. IT should help a business figure out where on the continuum a specific business function should be placed to better design a system that can support it.

IT can help businesses better design their function only after understanding the input and output required by the business. The input and output are further influenced by six optimization factors: fixed cost, incremental cost, cycle time, throughput, quality, and excellence. It is not possible to optimize them all because there are constraints and trade-offs.

Designing external customer or internal user experience is complicated. Bob and Dave suggested IT start by setting this goal: “make their experience as un-irritating as possible.”

Finally, designing a decision support system is pointless until the organization adopts a culture of honest inquiry. Decision support systems are valuable only to the extent they reinforce this culture.

So, what can be done to address the new business/IT conversation? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Two. I highly recommend the book.