Estimated reading time: 4 mins
You wouldn’t talk to someone who isn’t paying attention. Nor would you make a movie if you didn’t know who would watch it. So why do projects often deliver to a Business who isn’t ready to receive?
Business Readiness is a loose term which can mean the Business’s ability to take on what a project delivers. So Business Readiness is a measure of preparation. A Business that is Ready will have made all the preparations necessary to accept the deliverables of a project, and begin operating them. The deliverables might be:
- A product
- A service
- A process
- A new screen in a business application
- New infrastructure, like a PC
- New cellphones, Blackberrys or palmtops
Anything that involves a change to business operations requires Business Readiness.
As I said, Business Readiness is a measure of preparation. What kind of things do I mean that we might measure?
- User training and guides
- Desks and chairs
- Financial budget
- Customer communication
- Regulatory clearance
- Buy-in and motivation
- Business ownership and Change Management
- Facilities such as power, lighting, and even coffee machines or washrooms
This list shows that a number of the measures are qualitative, so difficult to actually put a score to it. This is why Business Readiness is hard to measure and plot on a scale. I think this is why many organizations really struggle with Business Readiness.
There are deliverables which are (at least nowadays) easier to assess the Business Readiness for. Software is one of them, and in fact there is an emerging standard to assess the Business Readiness of Open-Source software, known as Business Readiness Rating, or BRR. However, there isn’t a common approach to this problem which means it remains an artform rather than a science.
What tends to happen then is that Business Readiness is considered a low priority and an afterthought, often allocated as a slug of time at the end of a project. It isn’t well planned, well resourced and therefore poorly executed.
A lack of Business Readiness (by whatever measure) can be disastrous. The problems that arise are complex and often embarrassing. Whole careers can rest on the adoption of project deliverables, so it’s a high-risk area. If an organization isn’t able to cope with the changes it is subjected to it can have the following effects:
- Disrupted operations
- Customer complaints
- Low morale
- Wasted effort
- Increase in costs
Have you ever experienced these things?
There isn’t a silver bullet to solving the challenge of Business Readiness. If there was, I wouldn’t be writing this I guess, so at least the problem gives people like me something to think about. There is, however, a number of interventions that we Leaders can put into place to reduce the likelihood and impact of business un-readiness. These are:
- Always make sure that there is time allocated at the end of a project to checkpoint Business Readiness, and moreover, have Business Readiness a consistent agenda item throughout a project
- Define as best you can what Business Readiness is, even if it’s just what you might see. Ask yourself ‘What does Ready look like to us?’
- A simple but powerful step is to use your entire organization’s Structure Chart (or Organagram – old term) to consider the impact and dependencies across your whole organization
- In the latter weeks of a project, run daily meetings with representatives across the project and business to share information and to discuss readiness
- If you don’t institutionally have a ‘Model Office’ then you must at least involve end users in Business Acceptance Testing to ensure that end users are aware of the changes ahead, and just as importantly, these business reps take on the responsibility of sharing information about the changes within the business itself
- Last, but not least, check your business ownership. Is there a business sponsor engaged in the project who is accountable for communication within the business? Does the business sponsor attend meetings and contribute to project delivery, issues and risks? If not then it’s likely Business Readiness is low. I wrote about the importance business sponsorship in my articles Ten REAL Reasons Why IT Projects Fail, 15 Blunders to Avoid when Implementing BPM and Why Business Sponsorship and a Center of Excellence is Key to BPM Success
Here’s a book a colleague recommended to me which discusses Business Readiness amongst other subjects in the software delivery lifecycle, although I beleive many of the concepts are applicable beyond pure software: RAPID Value Management for the Business Cost of Ownership: Readiness, Architecture, Process, Integration, Deployment (HP Technologies)
Don’t let Business Readiness be an afterthought which will grow teeth and bite you on the ass!