Political aspects of IT projects
Even having had an IT strategy approved and accepted, the CIO cannot be assured that it will be realized fully or even partially. The fact that the CIO was able to prove the necessity of changes in IT and to push the IT strategy forward does not mean at all that all will go like clockwork later on. Actually, most likely it will be the other way round and IT Department will have to overcome several lines of active or passive resistance.
In such situations, in order to avoid open confrontation with opponents, the CIO has to use special mechanisms for smoothing out any disturbances whenever any options taken or to be taken bring about uncertainty or inconsistency. There are some basic political strategies at the CIO’s disposal which he can apply during implementation of corporate information systems, including engagement, convincing, and compulsion.
However if the CIO is neither a skilled politician nor a psychologist, it would be difficult for him to understand why obviously successful technological solutions should meet furious resistance from employees whose work those solutions would make easer. We believe that neither the CIO nor any other company officer having influence should engage, convince or compel. Those tasks should be done by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) based on the corporate strategy, the main task of the CIO being to identify human factor risks and to offer correct KPIs to minimize those risks.
The basic risk at the level of operational personnel is resistance to changes generated by inclination to keep familiar environments and tools. This should be dealt with by the middle management. The basic KPIs for this level are those related to retraining and motivating staff, including motivation to use new technologies and be engaged in projects for their implementation.
The basic risks at the level of middle managers are resistance to using transparent business processes and sharing information with others. This should be dealt with by the top managers. The basic tools to influence middle manager are KPIs in the field of cost price, labor and employee efficiency. Building and ensuring availability of the corporate knowledge base are important for influencing middle managers too.
Resistance at the level of top managers is due to the fact that IT implementation affects the business and can disturb the established balance of top manager interests and influences. The possibility of influencing top managers is extremely limited. In order to convince top managers the CEO can use indicators of the quality of business process performance, such as the time, the cost, the number of failures, etc.
At the CEO level the basic risk is the lack of political will. This can be overcome only through sufficient pressure from above (i.e. the owners) for the investment plan to be complied with, and by using the corresponding indicator.
The paper presents these groups of KPIs in greater detail and provides examples of specific KPIs that the CIO should insist on including in corporate strategy.