by Cory Crosland

Digital business success requires collaboration

Mar 29, 20164 mins
Enterprise ArchitectureIT LeadershipSoftware Development

Digital business development involves much more than creating siloed software solutions born from within IT departments. With so many moving pieces, CIO’s must weave collaboration into the very fabric and DNA of their digital business planning and operations.

collaboration myths
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Digital businesses are unlike any other business. In real estate, moguls are created by smart property transactions and holdings. In finance, capital, markets and strategies. For a digital business, the greatest resource are the human beings that form your team.

Digital business development involves much more than creating siloed software solutions born from within IT departments — it’s about digital leadership, market insights and technology platforms.

With so many moving pieces, CIO’s must weave collaboration into the very fabric and DNA of their digital business planning and operations. Without it, their project is almost certain to fail.

Collaboration is often difficult to measure, requires an investment of time and trust that can be hard to quantify in planning phases and ultimately requires that leaders be secure and confident enough to share a portion of their power and authority with their teams.

The technology and business cultures are often at odds and generate friction

Creating a digital business requires design and input from business and technology professionals who have a complete understanding of the business goals and vision to come together to plan, develop, implement and manage the digital business. These two cultures — technology and business — are often at odds and generate friction. This must be addressed and overcome in order for a digital business to be successful.

The odds against you successfully developing a digital business without a highly collaborative process are staggering; up to 70 percent of software projects fail, 17 percent fail so badly the organization’s existence is threatened, Fifteen percent of projects are simply abandoned. The reasons for failure are myriad and often obscured, however a lack of collaboration is nearly always a contributing factor and the best predictor of a future failure.

So how can we ensure success with collaboration? It starts with a consensus-driven business vision that is shared by a cross-functional team. Consensus is critically important because it separates just having a vision (which is the easy part) and having the entire team aligned and executing toward the same goal.

Once a complete business vision is shared with the digital business development team, CIOs must be willing to cede control of the development planning process, including mission critical specs and features, with the non-technology members of the team. With this universally held vision of the digital business, the team will then be able to define metrics for success from both business and technology perspectives. These metrics for success will be what the end result is measured against and aligns the team towards the same goal.

CIOs must cede some control of the development planning process

Once the success metrics are defined, software engineering managers are able to compartmentalize the development of digital business platforms based on the checkpoints and component parts needed to advance the project. This allows managers to ensure each development team remains focused on achieving their portion of the overall project.

Increased collaboration can have a rather nasty side-effect — scope ballooning. Participants in the planning process can get excited by the potential of a digital business which snowballs features and functionality. It’s important to re-prioritize and focus on the mission critical components, relying on market insights and original vision. When in doubt, push components to future milestones.

Your development team needs a full understanding of your digital business goals

Successful collaboration also means making sure your development team stays on target. With increased information and empowerment development teams can quickly spin far beyond the initial scope of the project and if left uncorrected this can result in a digital business that does not satisfy the initial digital business goals or vision. You want your development team to have a full understanding of your digital business goals, allowing them to focus on bringing the best technologies to bear on achieving those goals.

Failure to properly collaborate almost always results in missed deadlines, project failures, poor results, platforms that don’t meet the intended needs of customers in addition to demoralized development teams.

Developing digital businesses requires a tremendous amount of planning and collaboration to ensure success. Without a commitment to and planning for collaboration your digital endeavors are vulnerable to the many pitfalls, blind alleys and chokepoints that see the majority of software projects fail.