5 Avoidable Roadblocks To Digital Projects - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Digital Business
09:06 AM
Josh Oakhurst
Josh Oakhurst
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5 Avoidable Roadblocks To Digital Projects

These common roadblocks don't have to kill projects. Here's how to maneuver around them.

Technology is no longer the barrier. In service to making more revenue or finding greater efficiencies, we can bend machines to our crazy desires. The data, the languages, the presentations, and the gadgets are not holding us back.

So what is?

Why is it so hard to foster and execute institutional innovation? Why do tech ideas in the enterprise take so long to implement? And even if you personally control the budget and buyin, what other roadblocks stand in your way?

Below, I lay out a list of five common roadblocks to getting digital projects done, which I hope you'll find useful.

[Think prospective employers aren't checking you out on Facebook? Think again. Read IT Hiring: Social Media Matters.]

As part of the InformationWeek IT Leadership Summit at Interop New York on Sept. 30, I'll also be leading a workshop where you can bring your stories of triumph and failure to your peers. We'll explore the phases of a typical digital effort and learn from one another on how successful leaders execute on cash-making or cash-saving technology initiatives. Bring your gridlocked projects, and together, we'll give you some ammo to move your big ideas forward. If you can't make Interop, lay out your stasis in the comments below. Hope to see you in NYC.

Now, here are those major roadblocks to enterprise tech success, with quick advice on how to overcome them and references to some real-life examples that we'll be discussing in New York.

Roadblock No. 1: Getting started is hard.
Focus on this question: Is this an acute pain or an aspirational opportunity? The difference is critical, because the answer will tell you where you'll get a budget for this project and how soon. For example, we worked with a large automotive supplier with a great idea for an Internet of Things device, and this company decided just knowing what was possible -- an aspirational opportunity -- would have a healthy impact on its bottom line.

Roadblock No. 2: Consensus is fleeting.
Find one advocate, not many. In the enterprise, too much time is spent building consensus. Even with budgets, mandates, and permission in place, few are willing to lead. Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated is one company we've worked with that's doing this right.

Roadblock No. 3: You must sell upstream.
You wanna do what? Get to the ROI early and often. When you know that a project or strategy is right, you can be convincing. Confidence and CFO speak will help you win important battles, which you'll continue to face along the journey of a project. Companies we see doing innovation right pay attention to showing measurable financial success along a project's path.

Roadblock No. 4: You're having a hard time deciding on resourcing -- internal or external?
Focus on self-evaluation and on picking partners. Think of would-be projects as a wish list and a to-do list. Do you have time to tackle your wish list? (Are you even keeping up with your to-do list?) There are a lot of hard questions digital leaders must ask here, including whether they even know the difference between the two types of projects. At the show, we'll discuss a huge tech company that, in a moment of extreme self-awareness, decided it was time to bring in partners for help.

Roadblock No. 5: Digital momentum dies in procurement.
Teach your procurement team new tools for evaluation. Reality check: Does your company know how to buy anything in tech other than servers or developer hours? A digital initiative might involve charging toward an unknown outcome, such as building a software system that no one has ever done before. With such a unique project, you're not buying a product. You're going on a journey. Will your procurement department help or hinder the progress? We've worked with a huge consumer product goods company that is addressing procurement's approach as the company charges toward an Internet of Things future.

All of these tips and more will be up for discussion at the InformationWeek Leadership Summit as part of Interop New York. Join me Sept. 30 to assess and improve your organization's ability to Get Digital Done. You can also hear and chat with me on InformationWeek Radio Thursday, Sept. 4, at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT.

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

Josh Oakhurst is the Chief Strategy Officer at Skookum Digital Works, a growing technology investment and innovation partner hiring NY, SF, and SV refugees since 2005. He's @joshoakhurst on Twitter and linkedin.com/in/oakhurst.  View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2014 | 12:17:08 AM
Re: Finding One Leader
thank you for the info, interesting to know.... make me think
User Rank: Author
9/5/2014 | 10:00:30 AM
Finding One Leader
Regarding finding one leader ... Josh led an InformationWeek radio show discussion yesterday, and one point he made is that this leader doesn't have to be a title like chief digital officer or chief innovation officer. In fact, he noted that Skookum has encountered many a frustrated chief innovation officer who can't get anything done, despite reporting to the CEO, because the amount of consensus building, negotiating with procurement dept, and the like needed to make any move is just too formidable. 

You can find an archive of Josh's show on the InformationWeek home page, scroll down on the right.
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