Who is assigned to your strategic projects?

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Ideally, your best people should be assigned to strategic projects.  They know your business, they have a proven track record, and they are committed to the long-term success of your organization.

If you are like most IT organizations, your best and most knowledgeable people are supporting your critical production applications.  The people designing and developing your new applications and working on your strategic projects consist of younger staff with limited experience and vendor staff who have limited knowledge of your business.

Why are we failing to leverage our existing assets and assigning responsibility for our future to inexperienced staff or vendors?  The following is a list of reasons and impacts:

  1. Production systems run the business.  Disruptions can have significant impacts so we need rapid response and resolution of issues.  This is achieved by deploying fixed teams of experienced people who have prior knowledge and are available to respond quickly.  Because the required knowledge is not documented and it takes a long time to learn the applications, knowledgeable support resources are rarely re-deployed to work on projects.  In addition to our failure to leverage the knowledge of these resources for our projects, this practice demoralizes many of our best people and reduces their effectiveness.
  2. IT organizations rarely provide technical training in new technologies to existing staff.  Knowledge of new technologies typically resides with college graduates or younger more in-experienced staff.  Result: New applications are built by inexperienced staff resulting in quality and design issues that require senior staff to support and maintain.

The Standish Chaos study reports that most projects continue to fail or under-deliver.  Maybe we need to change our approach.  After all, the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

What is the solution?  Why not outsource application support to vendors and train existing staff to work on strategic projects.  When Legacy Applications are no longer needed, the vendor staff can be dismissed.  Since the employees have developed the new applications, there is no loss of knowledge and vendor support resources are typically less expensive than vendor support resources.

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