Succeeding in the era of shared project oversight

With LOBs increasingly driving technology spend, IT and business leaders must learn how to share authority over projects effectively without killing them.

Succeeding in the era of shared project oversight
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A life sciences company needed a new project lifecycle management system for the maintenance of one of its products. It seemed important to involve all stakeholders, so a cross-functional steering committee was formed. It included the top leaders from IT, engineering, quality, and operations. All four functions had equal ownership of the project.

These four very senior leaders couldn’t agree on anything, not even how to structure the work. “They were using a stage gate mode [i.e. waterfall] process in the business,” recalls Srini Datla, practice vice president of digital manufacturing at Sogeti, the technology and engineering division of Capgemini. “They liked running things that way, but when you have an IT project owner, there’s a different methodology and a different mindset. There was a clash over ‘How do we do this?’ and a clash of egos, too.”

Part of the problem, he says, is that the four executives did not agree at the outset about how difficult decisions would be handled. “How do you call the shots?” Datla says. “If you’re voting, you cannot do a tie-breaker.” No one had anticipated that these very senior leaders would not be able to come to an understanding among themselves. Because they all held the top role in their respective disciplines, the only authority who could act as referee was the company’s CEO — who was in a different geography and not available for that task. With no way forward, the project was eventually scrapped.

This is the kind of thing that can happen when LOB leaders and IT share authority over technology. Yet more and more projects and initiatives are being managed exactly this way. Our recent State of the CIO Survey revealed that when lines of business or business departments purchase technology with funds from their own budgets — which happens at 87 percent of the responding companies — IT and business leaders share oversight of those projects nearly half the time.

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