A 401-K for your IT system? 5 finance lessons for IT success


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Last week I attended a luncheon seminar about retirement planning and as I was listening to the speaker outline the elements and important considerations of how to get the greatest return on your retirement investments, it occurred to me that many of these same ideas apply to organizations’ IT investments.

As I watched the audience feverishly taking notes – as though their financial future depended on it (which, in many ways, it does) – I realized how much better off organizations would be if they put similarly intense and methodical focus on maximizing the returns on their IT investments that individuals put on maximizing the returns on their individual retirement investments.

Apply retirement planning techniques to your IT investments

Here are just a few of the retirement planning ideas that were covered and how you can apply them to IT.

1. Create a plan for maximizing user adoption and, therefore, ROI

Tri Tuns recommends creating a plan for maximizing user adoption and, therefore, ROI

Do you have a plan for your personal retirement? I bet you said yes.

Do you have a plan for how you will drive user adoption and maximize the return of your IT investments? I bet you said no.

Just like with personal finance, it’s easy to be caught up in the day-to-day, short terms needs and demands. But also like with personal finance, you need to wisely plan and systematically execute NOW so there will be a future. Throwing money at something and traveling the path of least resistance is a surefire way to fail.

It’s the most obvious issue – and one that is often completely overlooked by organizations: you need to have a plan for how you will grow and manage the return on your IT investments. Yet many organizations only examine the financial implications of buying (not using) the system when they are putting together the business case.

2. Manage the plan

Tri Tuns recommends managing the plan developed to maximize IT ROI by increasing user adoption.

Most of us manage our own retirement plans or we have a professional do it for us. Either way, there is someone who is clearly responsible for making sure the plan is working and that it evolves over time.

Who in your organization is responsible for creating and managing the strategic plan to maximize IT user adoption and, therefore ROI?

I bet for most of you, the answer is “no one”. When I ask executives who owns user adoption and making sure that they achieve the anticipated returns (as defined in the business case) for a given system, in about 95% of the cases the answer is the much anticipated “no one”.

You wouldn’t leave your personal retirement plan unmanaged, so why would you leave your IT investment unmanaged?

3. Monitor your targets and actual results
Tri Tuns recommends you monitor your targets and actual results.

The financial advisor at that luncheon seminar explained the need to set a target asset allocation mix for your retirement plan, and then compare your actual results to the original plan to see if you still have the right mix of assets in your portfolio.

So too, as an organization consider looking at each of your user groups as though they were different assets in your investment portfolio. Those users that fully adopt the system (over performers) will make a greater contribution to your IT ROI. Those users with low or no adoption (under performers) prevent you from realizing benefits from your system and lower your IT ROI.

Just like you set targets and monitor the results of your retirement assets, you should set specific user adoption targets for each user group and then measure actual results to see where you need to take action.

4. Rebalance at least once a year

Tri Tuns recommends analyzing and rebalancing the mix of approaches within your user adoption plan so as to best maximize ROI of your IT investment.Any financial advisor worth their salt will analyze with you – at least once a year — the investment results (ROI) and changes in the environment (taxes, economy, etc.), changes in your personal needs (years until retirement, cash flow, risk tolerance, etc.) and the current state of your portfolio and adjust strategically and accordingly.

The same holds true for your IT investment: update your user adoption goals based on factors such as changes to your workforce (employee turnover, growth of the company), changes to the system (functionality deployed, new capabilities, enhancements) and changes to your business goals.

5. Get professional advice

Expert advice and consultation is often the missing piece that connects everything together. Maximizing the return on our retirement portfolios is very complicated with lots of moving parts. There are different strategies, asset types, tax considerations, life expectancy concerns, and retirement lifestyle goals. You only get one shot at saving for retirement and with every passing year you have less flexibility and increased pressure to get it right.

Since very few of us have the detailed knowledge, experience, comfort, interest, and time to take full responsibility for the financial futures, we often turn to professionals to get expert help.

So why wouldn’t you do the same when it comes to your IT investments? They, too, are complex and dynamic. To get the most out of your IT investment, we’re talking about achieving full adoption across all user groups AND sustaining it over the life of your system.

You need to understand how people and systems interact

Who in your organization has the detailed knowledge, experience, comfort, interest and time to devote to planning, executing and managing user adoption programs for maximum ROI?

To maximize user adoption you need to understand:

• Individual and group dynamics that affect how you introduce new systems and get people to incorporate them into their daily work practices

• The way that business processes, system functionality, system integrations, and data quality all affect the use and usability of technology

• Communication and employee engagement needs, styles and strategies

• Adult learning needs, techniques and options to ensure you don’t waste time and money on ineffective training

• HR, legal, workforce management and regulatory considerations that affect how you introduce technology and hold people accountable for effective use of the system

If you start to treat your technology systems as IT investments that need to be managed like all other financial investments you will get better results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jason Whitehead
Jason Whitehead is CEO of Tri Tuns, LLC, an organizational effectiveness consultancy specializing in driving and sustaining effective user adoption of IT systems. He works at the intersection of technology, process, culture and people to help clients actually achieved measurable business benefits from their technology investments.


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