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Top 10 Hints for IT Transformation (Cont.): Risk is Inevitable — Plan but Don't Overplan!

This is the fifth in my series of articles on IT Transformation Hints. If you’ve been following along, welcome back! If you’re new to the series and haven't read my earlier blogs, you might want to check them out, starting with: IT Transformation – Top 10 Hints. You can find a list of all the previous blogs at the end of this post.


Risk. No one likes it, it's tough to predict, and it's a lot of work to mitigate. Unfortunately, every program and project, especially large Transformation programs, will have risk. How you deal with it is the question. There are multiple answers to this, of course. One choice is that you can ignore risk and hope it doesn't happen. This is obviously the easiest approach, but it’s also the most disruptive if something does go wrong.


Another option is to generate risk logs — a list of all the things that can go wrong, as well as the actions to address them. I think this is probably the option most companies take, but I've also seen a lot of effort go into these logs and then they are just filed away and never used. It can be very effective, though, if the risk logs are maintained, updated, and managed to.


Yet another way to go is the one I find personally appealing. This option is to not waste a whole lot of time and effort on risk planning.


What, the guy that just wrote two articles on planning is saying not to plan?


No, I'm not saying don't plan. You are destined for failure if you don't plan your program. I'm just saying that putting a lot of time and effort into risk planning for a large Transformation Program may not be the best use of resources.  Plan appropriately.


Look at it this way; you've got most, if not all, of your IT staff involved in Transformation. You've got the support and involvement of your business units and your executives. You've spent a huge amount of time planning what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. Now why spend even more time trying to figure out every single thing that can go wrong? Especially when the problems that occur are usually the ones you didn't think of!


My opinion is that if something goes wrong, you pull your Transformation Team together and focus your efforts on fixing it. You've got all of your best and brightest on the program already. Why not just refocus them on whatever needs to be fixed? Even if you had a risk log and mitigations identified, I'll bet you will still pull some of your transformation team to execute the corrective actions anyway. Why spend a lot of time on trying to predict what might happen and how to fix it when the likelihood of most risks occurring is low to start with? Make sure the obvious items are thought of, documented, and mitigated.  Be prepared.  Then spend your time executing your plan, and if you hit a bump in the road, fix it and get back on track.


I know this approach isn't for everyone, and it does introduce some risk, but it will make your program fast moving.  And again, balance being prepared against “analysis paralysis”.


So how do you handle risk planning?


For those that haven’t viewed the Top 10 Tips video (or want to watch it again), it can be found at: Episode Overview: Top 10 Tips for Planning Your IT Transformation


Learn more about HP Data Center Transformation Services and how HP can help you plan your next project.


For a great example of how HP can help organizations plan a major IT transformation initiative – and reduce risk – read how one company tested and refined its formula for IT virtualization.


Previous blogs in this series:

IT Transformation: --Top 10 Hints

Top 10 Hints for IT Transformation (Continued): Don’t Underestimate What You Don’t Know

Top 10 Hints for IT Transformation (Continued): Understanding the Current State Will be a Challenge

Top 10 Hints for IT Transformation (Continued): Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

data center services | ‎12-20-2011 01:06 PM

nice post.

Bill N | ‎01-03-2012 01:40 PM

While I understand the basic thrust of your argument about not planning for risks, I suggest that you have missed the most important part of risk planning.  If you are attentive to potential risks during the initial phases of a project, you can take preventative actions which can render the risk impotent, or reduce its impact substantially.   I recommend a healthy 'What if' dialog during the early planning phase, and a repeat of this during the late stage of development, just before attempting to deploy.   Rick analysis done during this part of the project will lead the development team to remove risks entirely.


On the other hand, I have seen many projects over planned, delaying the deployment of the beneficial aspects of the project, and wasting too much of the staff's time.  Almost all IT projects are projected to have financial benefits for the organization, so any delays in deployment delay the financial improvements.  Moving quickly is vital.   I think balance is the key.  Do enough risk management to identify key preventative strategies, but not so much that the project team is tangled in maintenance of massive logs.


Best regards,


markjgrindle | ‎01-09-2012 05:47 PM

Great comment Bill!  And I agree.  Up front effort always makes execution a lot easier and smoother, and that includes mitigating risk.

data center services | ‎01-21-2012 11:25 AM

Excellent Tips! Thanks for sharing the information!

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About the Author
Mark joined HP in January 2007 as a Business Consultant for the Data Center Transformation team. His role is to assist HP customers in dete...

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