November 29, 2004

It is often said that the key to a happy marriage is good communication. This is as true of the relationship between a bank's business managers and technology heads as it is of the bond between husband and wife. And, just as spouses may turn to a counselor for help in improving their relationship, banks are seeking the support of third-party providers to improve the communication between business units and IT in order to increase the success of enterprisewide project management efforts.

According to industry analysts, the lack of a formal communications process between financial institutions' business and technology leaders too often leads to breakdowns in communication that condemn projects to inefficient and problem-marred implementations. Still, the issue of early planning and inter-departmental cooperation to ensure successful technology implementations is old news, says Rich Chang, a partner in Accenture's Chicago-based global IT strategy and IT effectiveness practice. "Alignment is an age-old issue that goes way back," he says.

The bottom line, Chang continues, is that when an IT head or project leader is working on a project, that person is in charge of the project's success. "The IT department should be sure they are the ones who bring the rigor to the table," he asserts. "That is what the architects of the solution are trained to do, and they should be facilitating that."

In order to achieve this, the project manager must identify and understand the scope of the project from the beginning, Chang says. This requires sitting down with business heads and understanding their needs. "Most efforts fail for lots of reasons, but one of the larger reasons is poor management of the scope of a project," he adds. "The scope of the project should be actively managed through the life cycle. Functions taken out or put into the business case should be revisited, and then leadership is able to make conscious decisions whether they can introduce those new pieces to [the project's] scope or not. Active management of those key metrics are what we see too little of."