My friend's business is delivering financial services and he ensures that all his staff are suitably trained to provide the best advice, another friend's business is carrying bus passengers, his drivers know the local roads, what time their buses are due to arrive and how much the fares cost. This week I've been looking at holidays and hope that the firms I'm dealing with have brokered great relationships with hotels and airlines.
In each case here, the financial advisors, the buses and their drivers, the facilitators of dream holidays are the means by which their respective firms go about achieving their business goals. Everything that they do therefore is geared towards those goals.
Each of these also all relies heavily upon IT for delivery of their core business services, so presumably, IT strategies are similarly aligned. You’d think!
This sounds so obvious AND YET one of the most common reasons for IT Project fail is a lack of business case alignment.
Why? I guess because traditionally, IT's role in an organisation was a supportive or administrative one, not strategic at all! However, the increasing complexity of IT Projects, greater dependence on IT for delivery of business goals and the constantly changing IT environment means IT now has a much more strategic part to play. Unfortunately, in some firms, perception hasn't caught up with this reality.
Where it has caught up, where the two strategies are aligned, companies are enjoying much greater business results from their IT investment.
So how do you achieve alignment of IT and business strategy?
You can get independent advice, your trusted IT or Project Management services partner can usually deliver gap analysis around business case and a fresh pair of eyes can often see easy wins in this regard. Alternatively, here are six thought starters to consider.
1 - Early Engagement
To align IT Project and business strategy, leaders from your project management office (PMO) or enterprise project management office (EMPO) must be involved at the strategic planning stage. It's common sense, the work of project teams must be aligned with the direction of travel of the business, if strategy is to be delivered through IT initiatives, project leaders must be present when those plans are conceived. One of the greatest causes of a lack of strategic alignment is that senior-level managers are agreeing plans and THEN calling in the IT talent to implement them.
Early engagement of your IT talent leads to a natural evolution where business and IT strategy are able to grow together, each shaping the other.
2 - Don't Get Lost In Translation
In businesses where early engagement of IT leaders doesn't happen, many times the problem comes when a business strategy is translated into a tech strategy. Last year I consulted on a project where the C-suite decision makers had handed what they thought was a clear business change brief over to their IT team. Unfortunately, in mapping out potential technology challenges and working out technology and business dependencies, the essence of what the project was meant to achieve got lost.
The senior managers at the company thought in very different ways to the IT guys. As the CEO put it to me, the former "had a vision, a destination and a reason for the journey whereas the IT team were more pragmatic, they also knew where we had to go but hadn't bought into why."
The best way for IT teams to make sure that they are getting it right is to constantly ask questions. I have one PM colleague who insists upon a weekly catch up with project sponsors to make sure that what he is delivering is in line with business needs.
3 - Embrace Interdependence
The most aligned IT and business strategies are totally interdependent. I touched upon this before but the businesses that enjoy the greatest success aligning the two are those companies that encourage each to feed the other.
A great example I heard a couple of years back where a media content business planned to launch a smartphone app to keep up with their competitors. One of the IT project leaders was a user of a rival provider and she suggested a number of improvements but also several new business ideas based on her own experience of "what would be nice as a customer" of that rival. In other words, great business ideas should flow from the IT experts to the C-suite just as they flow the other way
I once heard it described like this by a brilliant CIO, her philosophy was that the business strategy should be full colour, shiny and inspiring and the IT strategy should be black and white, detail focussed and pragmatic. Success, she says, lies in bridging the two, the colour and the numbers, so that they become totally interdependent. There is no reason why the IT talent shouldn't also think in colour, in fact, they should be encouraged to.
4 - Governance
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am BIG into governance. IT Project governance can often be the greatest influencer of success, and so it is with business case alignment. Many EPMOs and businesses start off with good intentions but business case alignment needs to be monitored and measured regularly. As soon as the two start to take different paths you need to know and adjust accordingly.
5 - Flexibility
As part of governance, business alignment needs to be flexible. What is ‘business case aligned’ today may not be in six months from now. If your IT Project has a six-month duration and, three months in, this is starting to look likely you have a decision to make.
One of my PM friends tells me of the first IT Project he ever worked on. After four months of working long weekends, and late into the night, the firm pulled the plug citing business case as the
reason. The project had been the perfect business fit when it was planned but the wider business landscape had changed mid-lifecycle because a competitor had totally disrupted the market. My friend says he was frustrated and angry but experience has since taught him that it is better to waste four months than six!
6 - Be Clear On Each Individual Team Member's Strategic Role
As previously discussed, business strategy is often conceived at c-suite level and then either gets lost in translation or not communicated downwards at all. The most successful strategies are the ones that everyone is bought into and aware of. Engaged personnel are more likely to ensure that everything they do moves the business closer to its strategic goal.
Being clear with every member of your IT project management team about where they fit into that vision and how their work will contribute can deliver massive returns and not just in business terms but morale and cultural cohesion can also benefit. In contrast, if your team members don't know their role and how it contributes to company strategy, it stands to reason that your business will find it harder to achieve desired goals.
When business goals are clear, aligning business and IT project management strategy and keeping the two together throughout a project's lifecycles improves success rates. More than that, the work you do has a purpose and a definite direction of travel. I find everything becomes less of a struggle, disputes are resolved quicker as you have a "blueprint" to refer to, everything seems to fall into place.
In conclusion, everything that your business does should be aligned with your business strategy and given its crucial role in delivering business strategy, that should be especially true of IT. How do you measure up?
“Now it's us facing a great change and if we don't we'll become increasingly irrelevant."
In spite of this seemingly negative line, the theme of his email was really upbeat. He was telling me that he had realised that his traditional project management methodologies had been delivering diminishing returns and so he had taken a helicopter view of his (and his team's) whole approach to project management.
The conclusion was that different projects might need different approaches.
Now, you may laugh at this, it may not seem like a ground-breaking observation to you. Like many IT environments, my old friend has worked in a space where, for years, each IT project could be successfully delivered with a tried and tested approach - "Waterfall works" might have been their motto! Project after project benefitted from a systematic formula, everyone knew what they were doing, what was expected, how to proceed through the various stages, and time after time projects were delivered successfully. Slowly though, over time, the market changed. Increasingly projects needed alterations during their life cycle to reflect market realities, the business became more IT led and its strategic goals shifted more to an e-commerce model. Then, a complex project appeared that needed an altogether more flexible, more iterative approach. He realised that he and his team had been working in the same way for so long that their skills were no longer aligned with business needs.
He carried out a skills audit and based on current needs, created a gap analysis. He looked at project trends to forecast what skills would be needed in the future and they had an honest look at the certificates on the wall to see how well their qualifications measured up against projected need. He said it was "the most depressing week of our lives" as they realised that within a couple of years they might be, in his words, "extinct"!
They had to do something. He told me, "We had to either give up or give it our all!" They chose the latter. They learned new skills, first Agile, then Lean and afterwards a whole toolbox of methodologies and approaches - remember all they'd ever needed was Waterfall. Now, when something comes along that that is outside of their newly extended expertise they reach out to the project management services market for resources that complement their own capability - something that their "waterfall works" previous selves would never have done.
I found the story interesting because I am hearing many Project Managers say that they feel their role is changing. Actually, last year a PMI conference adopted a theme of "Adapt or Die?
Transforming Project Management to Embrace the Challenges of Tomorrow", with a stated objective of preparing participants "for the significant changes that are already happening, and will exponentially increase, and how this impacts our role as project managers." The conference, in Norway, focussed on how projects in the future must mirror changing trends and adapt in terms of scope, domain, content and schedule to an ever-faster business changing world. It is clearly deeper than just anecdotal evidence from a handful of my contacts.
Another of my CIO contacts has undertaken a root and branch review of their entire Project operation, realising in the process that project management was no longer just the domain of project managers. He told me, "There were a lot of different fingers in the pie, the business had evolved to a place where some IT projects were being green lighted to be initiated within and by individual departments. The IT Project team's job had been reduced to advisory, ensuring compatibility with other business IT systems and troubleshooting when things went wrong. The project team has had to shift its idea of where it fits within the business"
In Australia, Stephen Callaghan (Agile Transformation Lead, AGL) has noticed similar trends, "There has been much talk about the traditional role of the project manager dying and, from my own experience, the role is disappearing in many of the organizations I’m engaging with. For example, I currently work for a large utility company on a $300m+ transformation programme that used to have dozens of project managers and now we have none at all. That was a transition that happened in less than 12 months," he told AXELOS (a UK government/private sector joint venture to develop best practice).
So, the job title of 'Project Manager' appears to be evolving into different roles across businesses and project teams are having to react fast. The rate of change so far, though, is just the tip of a very big iceberg.
Stephen Dowling (founder of ETM Consultancy and Training) told AXELOS, "What is coming is utterly phenomenal. Over the last 30 years of technology change, it’s estimated that we’ve only seen 1% of the change in technology. In the next thirty years, we’re expected to see 99%!"
IT Project Management does seem to be where the greatest disruption is set to occur, I spoke with my friend who works in project management in construction and he tells me his role remains unchanged and sees no sign of anything changing in the future, if anything his remit is expanding and he is taking on responsibilities from other departments rather than the other way around.
Wise CIOs, Project Leaders and businesses are making preparations. Dowling said, "People need to wake up and see that the world is changing really fast", adding, "Organizations need to be open to more agile ways of working. Currently, the levels of people’s engagement across the world is quite shocking – we need to unleash their potential. When people enjoy what they do, know why their doing it and are empowered they become more engaged, motivated and connected."
Callaghan agrees, "You need the ability to pivot very quickly. Speed is of the essence right now and organizations need to be aware that competitors are coming at them from all sides. They need to morph and to take advantage of the situation; to know where the pivots and threats are going to come from."
I don't know whether the ratio of technology change over the last 30 years compared with the next 30 years will be 1:99, that sounds (paradoxically) both Orwellian and utterly plausible! What I do know though, and there is some comfort in this, is that the Project Management as a Service universe is expanding with solutions at a rate that is keeping pace with the IT project industry finding
new challenges. So, however, your business and your IT Project operation evolves, there will be best practice help available.
In conclusion, like with most change, it's how YOU react that determines your destiny. Nothing lasts forever, I remember the postman once telling me that he had a job for life, I often talk with him about this as he pulls me a pint in one of our local pubs. The point is, things change, you have to either adapt and embrace it or quickly become obsolete.
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We'd been comparing our backstories, him fresh from college, ink just dry on his certificates and excitedly starting his first placement, hence the question. With a few more years under my belt, I had to think about my answer. It was only later that I realised that, actually, you never stop training and you never stop learning.
Furthermore, of all the IT Project Leaders I know, the greatest ones are all I learners.
They are always bringing something new to the table and they encourage their team members to do the same, whether it's reading, listening to a podcast or streaming a TED talk they are sponges for new information and it shows in their performance.
They do something else though.
They seem have worked out a better way to learn and they execute it brilliantly on a daily basis.
1 - They Teach What They Have Learned
They pass on what they have learned, they discuss it, debate it and each time they do they digest the learning further. Studies have shown that, when you teach something that you have learned, you digest it better yourself. As Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People once said, "You learn by teaching." In fact, Covey is a great example of this, he recommended not that rather than just reading his books, you should teach what you have learned within as soon as 24 hours.
2 - They Have A Wide Subject Matter Scope
They seek to learn from outside their day job. The brain is a complex muscle, in the same way, that you wouldn't go to the gym and just work on a part of your leg, you need to exercise different parts of your brain. Most project managers read a lot about project managing, great project leaders do this too but they also read about a broader scope of subjects.
The last time I met with one, for instance, he was reading about how farmers were trying to reduce methane gas emissions from their cattle!! I mean, how random is that at first glance?! What it does, though, is allow your mind to place its energy elsewhere. When you start to imagine how to stop cows accelerating global warming you leave your subconscious mind to deal with what to do with the latest IT Project challenge you're facing, and it seems that your more laid back subconscious mind is sometimes better at this. Ask Archimedes! Would he have had his eureka moment had he not stopped work for a soak in the bath?
So, where do you access learning? Here are the four most popular knowledge channels cited by the leaders I talked with.
Leaders Are Readers
Former US President, Harry S. Truman once said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." This is the case with all the IT Project leaders who shared insight. They read all the time, books, blogs, white papers, industry journals.
Leaders Are Listeners
Most of the IT Project leaders I spoke with download podcasts regularly, some industry specific but others that are generally motivational or just interesting and thought-provoking.
TED talks are brilliant, aren't they? I recently stayed in a hotel and among the options on the Smart TV was an array of TED talks which I devoured with delight.
When was the last time that you attended a seminar? If the speaker was really engaging I bet that you came away buzzed and wanting to get back into the office and put what you learned into practice.
Another great place to attend is an adult learning class or workshop type event. A couple of leaders I spoke to regularly attend lessons that are totally removed from their day job ... cookery, woodworking, even knitting were examples I was given! There is method in this - when you challenge yourself and step out of your day to day you exercise those different parts of your brain and open yourself up to new creative potential.
One Project leader I chatted with had a great perspective on all of this. He told me that while the information attained from all this reading, watching or listening is great, for him, each of these channels gives him an opportunity to spend quality time with the planet's smartest people. I love that.
So leaders are readers ... but there's something else that I've noticed.
The greatest learners are also the greatest earners. There's food for thought. See you in class!
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A poster of Lord Alan Sugar just appeared on the wall of a CIO I know. As it does every year, in fact.
Lord Sugar is the central figure in the UK's version of TV show "The Apprentice". Of course, had my CIO friend worked in the U.S. then it may have been a poster of Donald Trump on that wall, in Ireland, it might have been Bill Cullen, in Brazil Roberto Justus ... but the slogan on the poster would have been the same ... "You're fired!" (OK, Roberto's would read 'Você está demitido!' but you get the picture).
Lord Sugar, like his global counterparts, is a very successful, (some would say) inspirational businessman but that is not the reason for the poster per se, nor is it that Lord Sugar's fortune was largely amassed in the tech industry which would be an obvious connection between him and my CIO friend, Max. It's the words on the poster that inspires him every January.
The turn of each new year is a time when Max, fires ... himself. And he does it in two ways that fascinate me.
You're Fired #1
Each January he imagines that he has been fired from his gig and is out of work, I mean he actually clears his desk and carries stuff out in a cardboard box! Then, he visualises seeing an advertisement for his job, he pictures himself applying and being invited for an interview. Finally, he envisages what he would say at that interview.
Try it yourself, imagine being interviewed for your job. What would you say? As an outsider, how would you feel about your IT team's strategies and how they align with business goals? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership team? What would your USP be coming into your role afresh? What changes would you make? How could you improve methodologies? Where could you make efficiencies, where and how could you improve productivity?
Now, Max chooses January to do this because the Christmas and New Year holiday allows him enough distance from his job that he is able to take himself out of his role, but I reckon this is something that could be done at any time of the year - after a weekend or a holiday or vacation. If you are really imaginative you could probably even do it over a lunch break.
If you do it properly, Max believes that it can have a profound impact on your performance. You have to be honest, answer those questions above candidly. Sometimes the thing that needs to change is YOU, you have face harsh self-truths and that can be painful - who isn't at ease challenging someone else’s behaviour or thinking? Taking a deep breath and a step back to form a critical analysis of our own can be a wholly different prospect!
However, the more constructively you approach this, the greater the benefit.
Max says he emerges from the exercise reinvigorated and with a clear plan for the year ahead.
You're Fired #2
The second way Max fires himself is almost a natural by-product of the first. He fires himself from as many individual commitments and responsibilities as possible.
When he first started to do this exercise a few years ago he began to realise that there were huge chunks of his "to do" list that he just didn't need "to do". As a CIO he was meant to be a leader but there were times when he was more of a manager. For instance, there were tasks that he had not let go of, either because he didn't trust his team enough to delegate them or (being more honest) he just really used to enjoy doing these things back in the day when he was a Project Manager.
That second point is perhaps the most interesting. The problem Max found is that he had come to identify with the things that he had become super proficient at, then as he got rewarded financially and emotionally within the business for doing these things, the harder it became to separate from himself from them.
He makes a list of the things that he REALLY loves doing, the things he would derive the most instant satisfaction from and he delegates those tasks.
This leaves time free to tackle the really gritty issues - the ones that are the difference between success and EVEN greater success. Do you have issues like this? Issues that, if tackled, would have a massive positive impact but you just don't get round to them because of all the other stuff you have to do.
Letting go of something that seemingly gives you a sense of value is really hard and takes incredible self-awareness. Stepping out of these safety zones and stepping into the unknown, into totally new territories, tackling things that actually ... you may not be as good at ... that takes bravery! Here's the thing though, what Max found is that the satisfaction you get from conquering these tougher challenges is massively greater than the instant, ephemeral gratification of completing a task you could do with your eyes closed.
It was hard at first and not just for Max.
Project Managers had come to depend on Max, they were used to him either taking the reins altogether or at least being hands on enough to make operational level decisions. Some of them felt withdrawal symptoms. Over time though, his teams grew in confidence. They realised that decisions they may have waited for Max to make, they could make themselves, incrementally speeding up the project process as a consequence.
As individuals in the team became more self-confident something else interesting happened. They started to fire themselves too!
One by one they would come to Max and suggest that something that they or a colleague were working on could be better serviced by an outsourced provider and they backed it up by having taken the time to source a specific solution from the Project Management as a Service market or, more often, we'd have had a call asking for advice.
In conclusion, all of this takes great self-awareness and buckets of self-confidence. Letting go IS hard but the rewards are immense. Joshua Reeves, the CEO of Gusto, is perhaps the planet's best exponent of this. Reeves told The Wall Street Journal, “Wearing five different hats is not going to scale very quickly.” He is right.
Reeves told Quora that you should make time for introspection. "It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine and have life simply pass by," he says, "Choosing how to spend your time requires introspection – a time to think about what’s working and not working, what we like and don’t like, and then change how we spend our time."
"In school, there’s a semester or quarter system that catalyses this introspection. At the end of each semester, you need to think about which classes you liked or didn’t like, because that informs which classes you choose next. In life, there are no quarters or semesters unless you create them. This time for introspection can be weekly (i.e. by going to a favourite park every Sunday), quarterly, or even annually. Use whatever cycle makes sense for you. The main thing is having a structured, deliberate time where you take a step back and think about how you’re spending your time."
It’s becoming increasingly important for leaders to “fire” themselves from as many of their responsibilities as they can. In an IT Project team’s formative stages, it’s not unreasonable to expect a CIO to make or review every decision, write every job or role description, interview every candidate, negotiate every contract and while you're at it, put the kettle on! As IT Projects become more complex and IT and business strategies become more and more aligned, doing all these those things becomes, if not impossible, highly unrealistic.
In many instances though, it is difficult for leaders to let go ... so ... just like Max, start by ... letting yourself go. It’s been nice working with you.
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wsj.com-CEO shadows workers to learn nitty-gritty details
Stoneseed's Professional Services Director David Cotgreave’s blog on one CIO’s strategy for greater effectiveness has been published on CIO.com. This blog explores the unconventional ways one CIO stays on his toes by firing himself and evaluating his position from an outsider’s point of view.
CIO is the leading information publication/ brand for today's busy chief information officer. CIO's publication addresses issues vital to the success of chief information officers worldwide. CIO.com provides technology and business leaders with analysis and insight on information technology trends and a keen understanding of IT's role in achieving business goals.
Read the full article
My friend, a Public Sector IT Project Manager, jokes that he'd started seeing IR35 everywhere, "It's been the topic of water cooler conversations, seminars, newsfeeds. I had to laugh, even on holiday a cocktail bar, Bar 35, had replaced 'ES' with '35', you know, like you do with passwords ... so Espressotini became 35PRESSOTINI. This was cute until I perused the menu some more and saw 'VIR35CENCE', 'FIR35TONE' and 'SAPHIR35'!”
That does sound quite TIR35OME!
The fact is that IR35 ‘off payroll” legislation shook up Public Sector IT service procurement.
We said it would.
We also said that client organisations and contractors alike had to act to be prepared for the April 2017 implementation. Some did, some didn't. As a result, some suffered greater pain than others.
There has been something of a collective sigh of relief from many in the IT sector over fears that the government would extend the new IR35 ‘off payroll’ rules ... but those sighs may be short-lived.
Although it was not explicitly outlined in the last Budget speech, other documents released on the same day mentioned the possible extension of the rules for personal service companies in the Public Sector to workers in the Private Sector. I believe that the government has effectively shown its hand, and will consult in 2018 on how to tackle ‘non-compliance’ with the intermediaries’ legislation in the Private Sector.
Our own businesses give us a unique vantage point from which to observe and comment.
Stoneseed provides Project resources into both the Public Sector (where the new rules apply) and the Private Sector (where they don’t). Also, while we favour the use of our own employed resource (where IR35 becomes irrelevant), we also work with a number of Personal Service Companies (where it is highly relevant).
Stoneseed's sister company, IT recruitment specialist Access Talent, is in regular contact with many influential IT HR leaders who are feeding a constant sense of the mood music of the industry. It allows us to speculate with some confidence and authority on what will happen further down the line.
To get a sense of what the Private Sector can expect, let's leverage hindsight to give us some foresight and reflect on the impact of IR35 on the Public Sector.
Recent research by APSCo found that the Public Sector is suffering the consequences of the new IR35 rules, with almost three-quarters of recruiters (70%) finding contract placements in the sector have dropped since April 2017. Almost half (45%) report increasing charge rates for contractors. On the face of it, that’s a dramatic change but the truth is, we don’t really know yet what the real fall in resourcing looks like yet. We suspect that the impact on the Public Sector, whilst significant, was not quite the predicted apocalypse.
A number of factors have effectively softened the blow, and there may be key lessons here for the Private Sector.
1 - Some Public Sector organisations have planned ahead very effectively, and turned to alternative resource models. They may have increased internal staff headcount, or accessed talent through the "as a Service" markets with partners who can provide employed (ie. PAYE) staff. The thing is - they did something - they acted positively - and it worked.
2 - Many PSCs have understandably taken the view that the new rules have swung the pendulum too far the other way, and now they have the worst of both worlds. They are taxed as an employee but without the benefits and the employment rights. However, for some (and this depends very much on circumstance) the tax maths have not been quite so dramatic. The restructure of tax rules on dividends have meant that the increase in their tax burden is not as significant as it once was. They have absorbed the cost and moved their contract to Umbrella Terms.
3 - Some have renegotiated terms. They have adopted variations on the above themes and brokered compromise arrangements, such as a slight increase on day rates to compensate for the increased tax burden.
4 - Many PSCs with a highly prized skill set have increased their rates significantly, keeping their take-home pay at the same level – ironically the Public Sector have footed the bill for these increases.
5 - Many have taken the IR35 Test and adapted. They have used HMRC's online tool to effectively take themselves out of the scope of the new rules, naming substitute workers, working to a clear Statement of work with defined deliverables etc.
6 - Many contractors took themselves out of the equation altogether by moving their skills to the Private Sector.
For many, this is a case of balancing risk. We don’t really know, at this stage, how aggressively HMRC are going to challenge PSCs, but certainly, given the requirement for intermediaries to report back to HMRC on off-payroll workers, they now have the information at their fingertips.
So some lessons, but the burning question for many is – will the rules be extended to the Private Sector?
This is what they've said, “The government will carefully consult on how to tackle non-compliance in the Private Sector, drawing on the experience of the Public Sector reforms, including through external research already commissioned by the government and due to be published in 2018 ... a possible next step would be to extend the reforms to the Private Sector, to ensure individuals who effectively work as employees are taxed as employees even if they choose to structure their work through a company.”
It's a pretty clear statement of intent, isn't it.
I think the question is probably easier to answer in reverse ... Why wouldn’t they extend it to the Private Sector?
One thing I have learnt about tax is that, although it can be incredibly complicated, it is (in the main) pretty logical.
I fail to see any logic in applying one rule in the Public Sector, and then not applying it to the Private Sector. The new rules have worked ... kind of ... or at least they haven’t failed!
Look at this from HMRC’s perspective if you can. The general direction of travel for tax for the last 4 years is to tax employees less and company shareholders more, I appreciate I may have oversimplified things here, but take a look at some simple facts. Over the last four years, the government has ...
1 - Increased basic and higher rate tax bands (unless you work in Scotland!) thereby reducing the amount of tax paid on PAYE income.
2 - Effectively taken away the tax-free basic rate band on dividends (replacing with a £5k allowance), the preferred mechanism for most Company Shareholders to reduce their tax burden, whilst still paying Corporation tax on company profit.
3 - Effectively narrowed the tax gap between contract and permanent workers. Contractors will often still pay less tax, but there is now at least a debate to be had once you throw in some of the benefits of sickness pay, paid holiday, pension etc.
By extending the legislation to Private Sector workers the government could fast-track this process, and potentially (some would argue) level the playing field. Furthermore and, as alluded to earlier, by introducing it into the Public Sector there has undoubtedly been a leaking of skills into the Private Sector. Why wouldn’t HMRC seek to plug this leak?
It’s quite clear what this means for the Personal Services Companies, but what does it mean for the engaging clients?
Well disruption, for one thing, an increase in day rates and undoubtedly a need to review current resourcing models.
This could be only 15 months away.
Let that sink in.
You could have just five business quarters to prepare.
How quickly does that time go?!
If we are to learn anything from the Public Sector experience it should be that now is the time to start preparing. Begin looking at your Project Portfolios for 2019, and how these will be resourced. Will you be ready for a hike in costs ...?
... or are there other delivery models that might provide the answer?
Find out more about the impact of IR35, we have produced a handy update for companies and organisations affected: Download it now
Contractorcalculator.co.uk - APSCo survey
I am loving an article on CIO.com by Martha Heller right now which opens with a great proposition - "How to strengthen IT’s connection to your business".
I think that it’s crucial that this connection is strengthened.
The difference between firms that have aligned IT and business strategy and those that have not is quite stark. To be honest, you can usually tell after spending a really short time with them which category they fall into. Firms with aligned IT feel dynamic and agile, they feel current, connected and one step ahead of their own needs. Meanwhile, the ones who have not aligned the two are increasingly getting left behind – that’s the “or else” I referred to in my header.
Martha is the author of "Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT" and as a CIO herself seems to really understand the importance of marrying IT with business goals. She also runs a US recruitment firm specialising in Chief Information Officers and so was perfectly placed to ask some searching questions when she surveyed CIOs recently. That survey provided some revealing answers, which she talks about in more depth in her article!
I suppose most interesting was the feedback from the question, “How knowledgeable is your IT team about their how their work drives business value?”
By now I would hope that positive responses to this would be high and, indeed, two thirds (66%) responded that their "business-facing" teams connect what they do with business strategy, but the rest of the IT organisation apparently .... not so much.
Less than a quarter (24%) said that everyone in IT is clear how their work relates to business goals ...
... and a worrying 10% replied “Not at all. IT does not connect work with business value”.
10%! One in ten!
I'm a glass half full type of character and accept that this means nine of ten respondents think that their IT organisation gets it! BUT I'm also REALLY passionate about business IT delivering maximum business value - otherwise, what's the point? To paraphrase my old geography teacher, I think we can do better...
Here's why it matters.
Just about every business today relies on IT. In fact, most rely on IT to the extent that IT no longer simply supports business - In most cases, IT now IS the business. Essential, indispensable and inextricably linked to successful business outcomes.
NOW, there are seemingly infinite opportunities and benefits that this reliance on IT affords, BUT it does also present businesses with significant challenges. Business IT got REALLY good, but at the same time it got really complex, IT is now a web of interconnections, interdependencies ... and potential risks.
When I started my career, an issue impacting IT could be contained within the IT department, most people within the organisation wouldn't even have known (we got away with it!)... Now such an event can have an impact on your whole business. Things like a breach of security, failure of infrastructure, extended downtime, loss or corruption of data can all have serious consequences for your organisation's reputation or its ability to achieve strategic business goals.
The point is, and at the risk of repeating myself, IT and your business are inextricably linked - your IT and business strategies need to be equally so.
The best thing is that when they are aligned, interwoven and pulling in the same direction, IT doesn't just reduce risk ... it drives growth. Market share, profitability, productivity, efficiency ... you name it ... just about any area where you would like to see it there will be a case study that demonstrates how business growth can be delivered by IT. In fact, most CIOs that I know are doing exactly this and becoming increasingly influential within their companies...
Of course, this isn't necessarily a cutting edge idea. Whenever I talk about business/IT alignment as if it were something new, my friend always chimes in with an anecdote about when he worked in the buying department for a large UK department store chain. Each week the buyers would get a "Weekly Item Sales Analysis" or WISA, a dot matrix printout of what was selling and where, which they would use to make purchasing choices. One week it was the head of IT (a CIO by today's definition) who noticed an anomaly. One item was selling really well in a particular store but appallingly elsewhere, his suggestions that all the stock should be shipped there and that this item be re-ordered in huge quantities for this store resulted in phenomenal sales - they literally could not keep them on the shelves.
It was a data-driven, business-aligned purchasing decision.
It was 1989.
A CIO driving revenue almost 30 years ago!
So IT and business case alignment isn't a new thing. What is new is the proliferation of solutions and it can be a confusing market to enter.
Anecdotally, I heard recently of a big UK media company that is about to switch to a new CRM system. The incoming system is less 'sophisticated' but does everything that the business needs, in fact, the greater simplicity actually suits the business better. It's no-one’s fault that they picked ‘the wrong one’ ... the business needed CRM, went to market and were sold a product ... it is a vendor's job to vend not always to advise! Often, an independent point of view that first takes into account actual business need and strategic goals before prescribing a solution can save time and money later on.
You have to know what "alignment" looks like so that you can find the right fit for your business. Start by asking the question, "What will it mean for the business?"
Alignment can also be a bit of a misnomer at times. Think of a railway, side by side you have two tracks, one Northbound and the other South. They run parallel, they are aligned, for miles and miles, but it is not until you reach a set of points that the two converge. Choosing business IT can be like this. Often businesses mistake matching a need with a system or process as alignment. Actually, it is not until business strategy and IT delivery converge that you leverage the greatest reward.
Strategic Business Analysts (BA) are great at recognising how to bridge this gap.
Business Analysts can be pivotal in aligning IT resources to business needs so that they do effectively merge. BAs not only have an understanding of business processes but they TOTALLY get how IT solutions can be best deployed to meet specific business needs.
One of the greatest barriers to alignment is that IT and business units tend to talk different languages, Strategic BAs sit between the business and IT playing the role of translator! They build relationships between key business stakeholders and their IT counterparts. If you don't have the budget for such a role, then BAs can be accessed "as a Service" like most Project Management functions, it's certainly worth considering.
New Year resolution time is fast approaching. Take a look at your business and ask, "Are IT and the business on separate tracks?” Now is the time to address this if that is the case.
When IT (and I mean everyone in IT from in-house talent to PMaaS partners, from CIOs to Project Managers), when IT really understands the business strategy, the value it adds is way beyond the capability of ANY other department. I'm biased but it's true. Aligning IT with strategy is literally transformational for business returns and culture. Making this your big plan for 2018 could be the best business choice you make. What are you waiting for?
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