When IT consultant Peter Cauchi was issued a directive from his Rochester, N.Y.-based client Xerox Inc. to create major change very quickly, he knew he couldn’t do it by himself.
“They wanted to [accomplish] a transformation from a copier culture to a solutions and networking culture,” he says. “And we had a very short timeframe to do it – one year.”
The author of “STEPS for Implementing Networks” and formerly with Edison, N.J.-based DMR Consulting wasted no time recruiting help from outside the organization.
He set up 28 locations in the U.S. and trained 500 people on Xerox’s internal processes before working with them on re-inventing the corporate image.
“When you’ve got an insurmountable task, when you’ve got a huge mile to run, what really makes or breaks it is your ability to bring the right people together to get them to work together and drive results,” Cauchi says.
That was the message he delivered during his session at last week’s IT360 Conference and Expo in Toronto.
Cauchi shared tips on how to collaborate both inside your own company and with outside partners.
Many CIOs feel they need some guidance in collaboration, according to a survey out of the Center for CIO Leadership.
Despite 93 per cent of CIO respondents rating collaboration as important to business, only 77 per cent agreed they were very effective in this area. Only a small number (15 per cent) gave themselves top rating in collaborating effectiveness.
Get the right people involved
To tackle a major IT project that also means change on the organizational level, you’ll need to have the best players at the table.
That means bringing in the right mix of leaders and a variety of in-the-field employees.
“It starts with the executives [setting] the example,” Cauchi says. Then “get a mix of people in meeting sessions from different areas of the company. They start banging heads, and that’s one of the best ways to get going.”
But building successful collaboration between people is conditional upon a business culture being of the right quality, he cautions.
If the right processes and tools are not in place, and the information for those involved is not available, the project will inevitably fizzle out before really getting off the ground.
“The tendency is to get very excited at the beginning, and because this can take a long time, the excitement can dwindle over time,” he says.
For that reason, it is also important to design an IT project with some “quick wins” that demonstrate value to executives. If those aren’t part of the equation, people at the top of the corporate chain can get bored waiting for progress to rear its head.
Chart your game plan
Proper due diligence is key to your IT strategy, Cauchi says. Plan early on how it will be rolled out over both the short term and the long term.
The first step is often assessing the preparedness of the company you’re considering for a partnership.
“You need to look at recent experience with partnerships inside and outside the company,” the author says. “This gives you a basis point to work from.”
If a prospective partner demonstrates that their internal partnerships are running smoothly, then they will likely work well with an outside player.
Likewise, develop your own in-house collaboration before seeking it elsewhere.
Also, don’t feel like online social networks can do all the hard work for you. An “in person” contact is still essential to creating lasting partnerships.
“Collaboration tools are good at making things happen quickly and more effectively, but the key thing is face time,” Cauchi explains.
Launch a breakthrough project
For real change and benefit being earned from a partnership, a company must be willing to deal with risk, the consultant explains.
Put together a team of leaders from various departments and free them from their daily duties while they put together your strategy.
“The team develops a high tolerance for uncertainty,” Cauchi says. “Historically, they create extraordinary results.”
When dealing with this group of people that will be supporting your budget for a project, it is wise to treat them like customers. “You need to reframe your language and speak to them with this in mind.”
Conflict might occur between different groups at first. But it won’t be long before your breakthrough project team is able to quickly solve problems, because they’re made up of leaders with different skills from across your company.
After the project has accomplished its goals, bring those people back into the company and have them roll out the project, Cauchi says.