Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Mar 18 2014   6:59AM GMT

When Companies Hibernate

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

I often come across companies that start IT projects with all fanfare, complete the initial tasks but cool off later. I first enquire, then nudge them and finally try persuading the folks to continue but they somehow go into a period of hibernation and wake up much later. I have wondered about the reasons for such phenomena and tried to analyze but have yet to come out with proper answers.

This is not a rare state that companies get into but a situation I have observed with regular frequency. Companies have always a lot of explanations to offer and look perfectly justified in their approach. To an external observer however such position doesn’t look so normal and convincing and he is at a loss to understand this period of stagnation. The blame could lay with the CIO for not being pushy enough, the users for their uncooperative attitude or with the management for turning a blind eye to the IT projects. For instance one of the companies that I am advising discussed seriously about restructuring the IT infrastructure which was in a highly decentralized mode but postponed it for two months till the start of the new financial year citing budget constraints but it has been now been several months since. Another company was to start off with their BI project and bought the product as well but couldn’t get its act together to implement for over several months now. If I try to analyze the reasons for such delays, some of the following points emerge :

Lack of budget : This is a reason often cited by the CIO or the management. Budget constraints could be true in certain cases when companies reel under depressed sales or eroded margins but in most cases it is either lack of drive or unwillingness to invest further in terms of company’s resources or funds that stalls these projects.

Not convinced of the project : The management may not be sold out to the idea and hence could hold back their approvals. The CIO may not have been able to work out a proper business justification or that the management themselves not made efforts to understand the proposal and the impact on the company.

Ignorance on IT : While the managements may profess to know, their ignorance of IT is hard to cover up. They still hold the view that the company has survived and prospered without IT so far and hence further such investment would be overkill. They would rather invest these funds in a marketing campaign or for capacity build up.

Unsure of the future plans : Managements may not be ready with their immediate business plans due to market uncertainties or may have business plans but refrain from talking of IT plans. It becomes convenient to put such investments on hold.

Conflict amongst the main stake holders : I have experienced this situation more than once. When talking of Supply Chain Management (SCM), Business Intelligence (BI) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), I found the main stakeholders standing their ground and not coming to a consensus, thereby holding up the project. Poor coordination at the top ensures indefinite delay in the execution of such projects.

Plain lethargy : This last point takes the cake. Sluggish companies not seriously affected by market conditions, or the ones that are happy with moderate growth or those who are monopolies, take it easy and do not see the need for hurry. They can wait and take a look at the proposal when they are in a mood to do so.

Such periods of inaction are rather intriguing. Irrespective of the reasons for delay one wonders if this stretch of time benefits anyone. Perhaps none, except the companies who are able to postpone their investments. It was amusing to hear of a senior manger patting himself on his back for holding back decision saying that the delay has really helped because they can now work on the new version of the software, not realizing the fact that they had lost the opportunity in not being to make use of the facility before. Lethargy, indecision and procrastination are qualities or habits that we can do away with and move ahead with a greater sense of purpose.

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