Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Sep 19 2011   10:10AM GMT

Playing for big stakes: A five step formula

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

‘Make it large’ screams an advertisement on the television, obviously trying to draw attention of the viewers to sell its products. I am sure, viewers do understand the purpose of the advertisement, but then there is a subtle message that the clip conveys which gets lost in the cacophony of all the noisy pieces that follow one after another. The clip shows someone dissatisfied doing normal things and then deciding to risk doing something big and succeeding in the end. This is about a paradigm shift, of an effort to come out of the shell, breaking barriers to grow and realize his full potential. Friends, it is this message that we should absorb, get inspired with and use it in our professional life.

Life of the ordinary

We often get mired in routine tasks and trying to manage day to day operations. We get so consumed with this routine (of keeping the lights on) that we forget the larger purpose that we came in for. Of the little time that we have, we try to add an application here or there and keep ourselves in business. Small successes keep us happy and we try to make big of the small stuff that we accomplish. But when we go out to a seminar and hear someone speaking of big achievements, we feel shy and hide ourselves in the crowd so as to become ordinary and nondescript. That sure doesn’t give us happiness – we wish we had done something good to talk about. Small projects and extensions to the current systems we do often, but it is about doing something significant which brings about a difference to the environment that we are in.

Doing something big

Let me delve on few ingredients of such an effort:

Identification of a requirement – One needs to scan the business environment and seek out a business need that could change the fortunes of the company. This would come through discussions with the business heads or the CEO. Define the requirement and the projected outcome.

Planning – No large project is ever successful without adequate planning. So what is required is to lay down all steps necessary, resources required, possible risks and fall back options. The plan obviously requires concurrence of those involved in the project.

Execution – Adopt formal project management practices and stay committed to its success despite hurdles that we come across. It is our conviction that will lead us through.

Review post implementation – After the initial applause, do pause to take a look at the impact that the move has created and whether the project has actually achieved what it set to achieve. There are many who miss out this step. The management or the end users are the real spokespersons and it is only when they speak out in happiness, we can consider ourselves to be successful.

Of courage and managing risks

However, doing anything big and significant requires courage. We have to break shackles, come out of our comfort zone and get ready to strain ourselves for a big battle. Success however is not guaranteed and therefore the move tests our risk taking ability. Low risk entails small rewards and greater the risks, larger are the gains. We take what is called a calculated risk i.e. be conscious of the pitfalls but prepare well enough to tackle them.

I have at times during my career refused to take the beaten path and embarked on some big ventures against the usual advice of colleagues and vendors. For example, doing a big bang ERP implementation, going ahead with supply chain automation even when there were very few examples of other companies doing so in our industry, attempting digital assets management, etc. The projects carried risks no doubt but when we succeeded all others wanted to be a part of it and claim that they also contributed.

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