Many challenges with IT projects come down to issues with the processes the teams are following to design, build, test and release digital capabilities.
If you’re responsible for delivery of digital projects, continually striving to improve the way you run your projects and programmes increases both your likelihood of success, as well as team morale.
This is the first of a two-part series looking at how to assess and then continually improve the way your organisation delivers digital projects of any size.
In this piece, we look at ways to understand what you’re currently doing well and what needs improving, as well as how to add context to what you find, by benchmarking your organisation against others.
1. Understand where you are now
Knowing where things are going well – and not-so-well – enables you to subsequently target where you make improvements.
Do you have one unified technology team, or different teams for design, development, testing and operations?
Having separate teams, while not uncommon, can lead to disconnects, misunderstandings and friction that harm projects. If you do have separate teams, find out how information and key artefacts pass between them, and whether the processes are working effectively.
How good are the specifications your technology teams are working from?
Who is writing them? Do they accurately reflect the business need?
Is feedback regularly sought from real users?
It’s critical you periodically involve the people who will actually be using the product or service you’re delivering. Without these regular sense-checks, how can you maintain your confidence that you’re building the right thing?
Are there regular opportunities to reprioritise work?
Assumptions made at the start of any project should be re- evaluated over time. User feedback, technology limitations, budget pressures or other factors can impact what should be built. What does your reprioritisation process look like?
(For more on different ways to prioritise during IT projects, check out the Prioritisation episode of our Techtalks podcast.)
Is there something of value to show at the end of each development iteration?
This will ideally be working software that can be used straight away, but could also be other valuable output, such as insight to guide future iterations. In any case, there should be a clear and explicit articulation of the value being delivered by each iteration.
Are outputs meeting quality assurance requirements?
Are tests being passed? How stable is the product or service you’re releasing?
How often are releases taking place?
This is a high-level indicator of organisational agility. Generally, more-frequent releases mean you can respond faster to opportunities and threats when they arise. Long periods between releases suggest significant complexity or bottlenecking.
Moreover, regularly exercising your live deployment processes ensures your teams are familiar with them and can confidently deliver under pressure, if necessary. This is extremely important when it comes to our next point.
How quickly can you get a small new feature from concept to production?
Even if the general release cycle is slower than you’d like, how fast could you get something urgent into production? Inability to turn changes around quickly could have serious business implications should you need to respond to an emergency, such as emerging threats or zero-day vulnerabilities that can impact trust in your reputation and brand.
2. Benchmark against your peers
Having understood how well your digital delivery processes are currently working, it’s helpful to understand how these compare to others in your sector and beyond, to see what you can learn from your peers.
Draw on your own experience
If you’ve worked in other organisations, your knowledge of how things are done elsewhere will be a valuable starting point for the benchmarking. How do the ways of working in your current organisation compare? What’s going well? What could be improved?
Ask your colleagues
What do the people on the ground think is working well? What’s creating friction? In addition to the value you get from the insights themselves, listening to people’s concerns will help secure the essential buy-in from your teams, which you’ll need if you’re to successfully implement improvements later on.
Get an external perspective
Ask an independent third party to assess your teams’ ways of working. If you’re working with any partner organisations or contractors in the IT delivery space, ask them how they feel you compare to other places they’ve worked. Alongside these inputs, consider a formal assessment or healthcheck by a digital delivery specialist or agency.
3. Define your way forward
Equipped with your detailed understanding of where things are being done well, and where you should be looking to make improvements, it’s time to plan and then implement your changes.
Look out for part two of this article, coming soon: Evolve your IT project delivery methods by implementing best practices: Part two.