Saturday, September 29, 2007

Management Commitment - Mandatory or Myth?

It appears in just about every slide, every summary, and every “critical success factor” list. Management commitment is a must to ensure a successful rollout, adoption, program, etc. etc. This is especially prevalent when it comes to the adoption of a best practice framework; such as ITIL ®.

However, could this be just be the excuse that the project leader, team leader or IT leaders are keeping in reserve in case they mess it up?

What is it that IT professionals are expecting when they ask for commitment? If it’s budget, then why not call it ‘Budget’ or ‘Finance’. If it is moral support and a pat on the back on the odd occasion why not call it that.

The problem is that ‘management commitment’ is just way to vague and way to easy to be used as the scapegoat for any failure by an IT professional that is delivering or trying to delivery something of value to the business. At the heart of this issue is that no one ever defines metrics for ‘management commitment’. If they did, then there would be a lot more thought put into what specifically was required by IT of the business AND a real commitment from the business to deliver the kind of support that IT envisage.

So, how can we establish a set of metrics that is meaningful to both parties?

Perhaps the easiest way to look at the challenge is by considering groups of indicators. The easiest one is related to personnel. For example, attendance at key scheduled stakeholder meetings and attendance at planned briefing sessions can be measured.

Finance is another group that can be counted. Not metrics like the approval of budget; but metrics such as ‘days taken to approve minor expenditure variances’ allow business owners to appreciate the fact that delays over such issues can cause blow outs in project deliverables.

Public Relations could be another group. Depending on the organization we can count the number of appearances and press releases that the management deliver to the marketplace or even to internal users.

In short, there are a variety of ways to define management commitment and if some effort is given to truly quantifying what is typically a vague subject, then the chances of actually getting it are greatly enhanced.

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