The pace of change in today's IT world is moving faster than ever before; new technological advancements are being made every day. With cloud computing becoming commonplace and Gartner predicting that by 2016 it will make up the bulk of new IT spend, technology is more accessible and affordable than ever.
But with more options and expectations from today's technology, many businesses are struggling to keep pace and becoming paralysed as a result.
Businesses know they need to adapt with IT change to respond to business, consumer and compliance demands, but taking that first step can be a daunting prospect. To help overcome this barrier, as well as the complexities associated with new IT systems, speed of technological change and the potentially damaging effects of a software 'glitch', quality assurance needs to become a priority and is more important than ever if projects are to be successful.
Software development failures have been making headlines for decades, with the Standish Group suggesting that the failure rate has remained at around 70 per cent for the past 20 years.
With the potential for software to fail never being greater, there are three key areas that businesses need to address before embracing IT change and ensure that effective management can help overcome the stagnation and fear associated with taking that vital first step.
Step 1: Ensure the business and IT aims are aligned
It might seem an obvious statement to make but a critical step in making software projects a success is to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. What a business needs and what IT can provide can be mismatched, and unless stakeholders and users are integrated throughout the entire process, the end result might not reflect the needs of the business or, worse, could fall at the final hurdle and fail at go live.
The focus should be on mitigating risk at every stage and using IT to meet the business need and goals. This can be done by: assessing the quality of each business area to be implemented, establishing a road map for each area, embracing Agile techniques, and ensuring transparency across the business.
Step 2: Embrace agility
Organisational agility is a key aspect in managing successful IT change. The advent of cloud-based technologies has forced companies to become more agile in their approach to taking on new technology in recent years. With cloud becoming a leveller, small and multi-national companies alike are able to take advantage of new technologies, with budgets no longer a barrier to adoption.
With consumer-led demand increasing at an unprecedented rate, organisations must be able to react more quickly and deliver IT change at a faster rate, lower cost and at little or no risk to the business. When all three of these aspects are aligned, businesses can put themselves in a great position for a successful IT implementation.
However, it is the risk aspect that is often overlooked or not thought through in detail. Shortening time-to-market and reducing budgets often takes priority during development, with testing and quality bolted on at the end of the project, without being built into requirements from the outset. Being made aware of problems at go-live stage can have a detrimental effect on a business, leading to costly updates and potential damage to brand reputation.
As well as business agility and the ability to react quickly, embracing Agile principles to undertake an IT transformation project will also help mitigate risk. By ensuring that change can de delivered quickly, it breaks the process up into small stages that are tested at regular intervals to ensure a smooth transition process and successful outcomes.
Step 3: Specialist suppliers
Technology has become a critical enabler and the backbone for organisations wanting to reach out, communicate with and sell to their target markets. However, developing the underlying software to function correctly is not a straightforward process and should not be entered into lightly.
In most situations, working with a number of specialist suppliers rather than a single larger vendor that promises to deliver on multiple aspects can in fact be the best route to take.
This might sound like a headache to manage but by working with more suppliers, companies can have access to a greater pool of relevant IT experience and knowledge and confidence that the end result will be fit for purpose. Agility and flexibility will be easier to achieve in specialist supplier environment.
Sitting across all of this should be a central process for managing quality and transparency to ensure vendors are working together to the same end and integrated across all areas of the business to minimise the risk of failure.
IT transformation and the pace of technological change might seem like a daunting prospect but, by breaking it down into manageable chunks and putting quality assurance at the heart of the project, businesses can reap the benefits of today's technology to ensure they remain one step ahead of the competition.
Ben Fry is the UK manager of Banking, Financial Services and Insurance for SQS, and David Rigler is the director for UK Retail and Manufacturing