IAM Solutions: Mind the Gap and CYA
The other day I went to visit a prospect who was evaluating vendors for a digital transformation project. The person heading up the project was a Senior Program Manager.
She was clearly very capable – one of those people who are change agents within an organization.
As soon as I walked in I could tell that she had rolled up her sleeves and was on a mission to accomplish great things.
I was impressed by her on every call we had been on, and meeting her in person just reinforced to me how capable she really was. I immediately began to worry.Worry? “Why?” you might ask. I worried because I could tell she had a plan and that she was hell-bent on making it happen. I looked around the very large conference room and saw a room full of IT engineers and I started to sweat.
Understanding How Solutions are Evaluated
I could tell she had assembled her team and she was going to put them to work to evaluate the solutions she was considering and she would then make a recommendation to the company and they would then live or die together as a team. I looked around for the nearest exit.
We presented our capabilities around digital transformation and how we have helped other companies revolutionize the way they interact with customers online.
The group was engaged and well informed; they knew what they wanted, and had a very good handle of the use cases and requirements that would deliver on their transformation. I started to shake in my loafers.
Watch Out – There’s Thin Ice
Fortunately, when I was packing up, the engineers left and I had a chance to speak with her one-on-one. She seemed open to a candid conversation so I began to slowly give her some visibility into how thin the ice was that she was venturing out onto.
I began by asking if she had sponsorship from the highest levels of her administration. She said she did. I asked if she had budget. She informed me that this was a board approved project and that they were going to make it happen no matter what.
I then began to tell her how complicated the project she was about to embark on was. We discussed how IDaaS, cloud based solutions would offer an easy path forward, but that they would probably then be stuck conforming to standard use cases and unable to deliver the value she was tasked with delivering.
Finding the Right Solution
We then discussed the complexity around deploying a non-cloud based, highly customizable solution. She admitted that the on-premise product seemed very complicated and that the engineering team was quite concerned.
She agreed with me that this was not an issue with the product, but an issue with the problem she was setting out to solve.
Cloud solutions were not adequate and custom solutions were a lot of work that required a lot of investment. There would be no easy answer for her unless she lowered her expectations or braced for a very lengthy and complex integration project.
The Planning Phase
She was still listening and not offended in the least, so I advised her not to tap the brakes, but to step back and prepare to accelerate full tilt through a planning phase.
The planning phase would allow her to quantify the size of the problem for them and to expand her team to include people that have been working on this type of project for many years.
It was obvious to me, and soon became to her, that if she embarked on this project with the team that was in the room that she would be immediately liable for the results. I counseled her to bring in outside experts with a wealth of experience that she could hold accountable and also rely upon.
This team would help them think through their use cases. Help them prioritize their activities, help them quantify the business value and the investment required for the short, medium and long term duration of the project. I suggested to her a rapid assessment, a two-week engagement that would deliver to her a plan.
A plan that she would be able to circulate internally and get executive buy-in or not. And the “not” portion here is key. It is quite possible that once they were aware of the size of the project they would no longer be interested, but at least they would know and she wouldn’t be on the hook.
She nodded in agreement and proceeded to confess that her plan had been to quickly deliver a minimum viable product.
Minimum Viable Product Approach
This minimum viable product approach might make a lot of sense to a highly motivated and competent employee like the one I was speaking with, but I explained to her that she would be absorbing an incredible amount of personal risk.
Her executives and business owners certainly have expectations around the project beyond the MVP. Sure, she could deliver an MVP, but that MVP would not be enough in the long run.
I equated this situation to what happens after a mother goes through the miracle of giving birth. The baby is born, the nurses take it away but then they eventually bring it back into the room and hand it back to the mother.
The mother, who just lived one of the most beautiful experiences there is to be had now has to nurture and support this bundle of joy for the decades to come.
Giving birth, it turns out, was the easy part (so says the father who never gave birth), the hard part was still to come. She understood the metaphor and agreed with me that it would be foolish not to plan for such an incredibly complex project.
Bringing Executives to the Decision-Making Process
This post might seem to be around planning, but I titled it “Mind the Gap” for a reason. What I witnessed in that conference room as a huge, tremendous gap between this “go getter” and her executive sponsors. My counsel to her was to bring her executives closer to her.
To bring them into the decision-making process. To make sure that they knew up front what they were getting into and how complex the challenge was that they were asking her to deliver on.
I let her know that regardless of how capable she was she shouldn’t just push off and plunge into this project because the opportunity to deliver value was huge but it doesn’t come easy.
Help When You Need it Most
This is one of the main reasons why I like the IAM space. IAM solutions and projects cannot be microwaved without compromising the business value they deliver. Go-getters need help from outside the organization.
They need someone to rely on when the going gets tough. They need someone with experience that can help executives understand the journey they are embarking on.
So, if you’re an mid-level manager, someone that knows their stuff, a change agent that is ready to roll up their sleeves to solve problems, stop and get some help, otherwise you might find yourself very, very alone with a baby that will spend a long, long time maturing. Give us a call.