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    May 16, 2024

    Aligning Technology with Business: How People-Centric Planning Can Help

    In years past, technology was typically viewed as a kind of utility, important and relied upon, but not strategic. These days, technology fuels pretty much every critical business service for every company in every industry. Technology is inextricably bound with the business. Without technology, business stops. Without technological innovation, the business stands still.

    This modern reality is fundamentally at odds with the way technology funding works within many enterprises. This shouldn’t be a surprise given technology funding and planning still works pretty much the same as it had for decades.

    Current approaches create a range of problems, including misalignment, inefficiency, and waste. That’s why teams now have to take a new approach, one known as people-centric planning. Through people-centric planning, teams are given persistent, long-term funding. In addition, teams are organized around products and value streams, rather than in the siloed departments of the past.

    To successfully deploy people-centric planning, there are three key principles that teams need to employ: governing innovation, aligning technology with the business, and empowering teams. In this post, I’ll examine how teams can align technology with the business.

    The problem

    In today’s fast-changing business environment, priorities and requirements shift constantly and the scope of work is ever expanding. Business stakeholders often don’t get what they want, need, or request. A big part of this problem can be tied back to incentives. Historically, technology teams’ performance has been measured based on performance characteristics such as the lack of bugs or system resilience. Teams receive praise, or at least are left alone, when releases don’t break and don’t have bugs—but there is no shortage of fingers pointed at them when problems arise. Meanwhile, business stakeholders keep asking for enhancements that increase the risk of all those things coming into play.

    This fundamental tension causes misalignment, miscommunication, and confusion among both technology and business teams. All too often, the technology team is viewed as the problem. When there’s misalignment, technology teams will often hear a range of complaints: “The tech team never delivers;” “We never get what we need;” and “We’re never sure when functionality will be delivered.”

    By establishing the innovation governance capabilities outlined above, teams can begin to combat this misalignment. However, once governance and common metrics are established, the next obstacle to arise will be around timing. That’s because siloed teams often prioritize work based on different criteria. Business leaders will say a feature’s needed by Q1; technology leaders will say it can’t happen until Q3. How do you resolve this conflict?

    The people-centric planning approach

    People-centric planning enables teams to avoid these conflicts and disconnects. Through this approach, teams create value streams that fuse business and IT staff, who have one set of shared goals. Respective leaders prioritize according to negotiated agreements between business and technology. The trick is to strike the right balance between addressing business priorities and backend technical and architectural objectives.

    In these cases, it can often be helpful to negotiate percentages, with the goal of striking a balance among various types of work. For a given quarter, the agreed upon mix could be 20% of time focused on defect resolution, 40% on new feature development, 20% on addressing technical debt, and 20% on discretionary work. Next quarter, leaders will have a similar conversation, adjusting the mix as needed. To make this work, business and technology leaders have to have a good working relationship. There has to be some give and take and an understanding and trust that each side will be reasonable.

    Benefits

    Through people-centric planning, teams can establish tighter alignment. When teams are aligned around value streams with common objectives, they’re better able to connect strategy with work, reduce unnecessary friction, and foster deeper collaboration.

    Conclusion

    By employing people-centric planning, your organization can begin to align funding approaches with modern business and technological realities. In the process, you can achieve significant improvements in agility, efficiency, and business performance. 

    To learn more, please visit our People-Centric Planning page.

    Tag(s): ValueOps , Clarity

    Sonja Furneaux

    Sonja is an experienced Solution Architect who has spent 20+ years advising Fortune 500 companies. Her product and industry knowledge is centered around Strategic Portfolio Planning, with high competence in operational finance, resource management, IIPA, Six Sigma, PSA, and bi-modal execution including being SAFe...

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