What is the most important role in a project? It is the business owner of the deliverable. This is even more important with IT projects. It is too easy to assume that the development of a business application is an IT project. After all, this is a software; it requires IT expertise. But is it really an IT project?
Sometimes it will be an IT project, and sometimes not. The key question is to know who the owner of the business process is. Then the project should be set up in a way that ensures ownership remains with the business owner of the solution.
A disconnect between owner and sector
It is very hard to manage the development of a business application without leadership and involvement from the business owner. Classifying the project as an IT project can amplify the problem, and increase the risk of failure. Yes, business applications will use technology to support a business program. For administrative reasons, it may be tempting to give it to the IT sector. That is only convenient during the early phase of the project.
The development team may be able to correctly code an application, but they will not own the final results. The final benefits will be for the users of the application, and these are the employees of the team working for that business process. Because of that, it is essential to keep the ownership of the solution with the business sector.
It is more accurate to say that it is a business project, enabled with technology.
Ownership will require the business owner to actively participate and lead the project.
Employing IT as a facilitator
The IT team may help in gathering the business requirements, but the process should make the business owner responsible for the final definition of the business requirements. Let’s not confuse facilitating the process with owning it. It is a line too easy to cross, and a dangerous one to cross.
The best approach is to have management document the process or the management framework for their business program. It should be in a language that they understand, and that they own.
After that, the job of the development is to convert it in an IT application, and advice management if some elements of the framework would create technological problems. For example, a business rule could be very costly to implement. It is possible that the rule was not fully assessed, or may only apply to very limited cases. With further analysis, management may decide that the cost-benefit of implementing this rule is not there.
I have seen projects in trouble because the ownership of the solution was lost. Roles and responsibilities were confused. While IT was responsible for the development, management did not own the final solution. After all, it was an IT project…
Additionally, the absence of management at the appropriate level is a pure red flag. They must own the solution, and be involved in the process. They should view it as their project. Sure, they need specialized resources to develop the solution. But it remains their business process. If you want such enterprise solutions to succeed, make sure leadership from the business side is present and owns the business requirements and participates in the development of the solution.
IT projects often have numerous stakeholders with different interests. Leadership skills are very important in such context. To successfully lead the development of enterprise business applications, it is important to have a joint leadership of the project, combining both leadership for the development team and leadership of the business side.
In an enterprise solution, IT is an enabler. IT can be a strong ally and facilitate the process. IT can bring expertise, but they should make sure the real owner is actively involved and owns the solution.
For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria
Additionally, check out his book, Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve better results in a dynamic world: http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Toolbox-Project-Managers-Achieve-ebook/dp/B00TMIMRWU