Implement First, Ask Questions Later (or Not at All)

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As Boomer and Xer managers know, most companies used to spend years clarifying business requirements before they would even think of launching new software. But today, as explained in the Summer 2018, MIT Sloan Management Review, cheaper cloud-based apps mean that implementation decisions are made on the fly. And, there’s no going back.

Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg nicely summarized the modern philosophy about technology innovation when he spoke about the need to “move fast and break things.” Increasingly, that same mindset appears to drive how companies implement new technologies. And this phenomenon stretches beyond Silicon Valley.

For decades, companies required their IT teams to identify, model, and validate business requirements before writing a line of code or adopting a new technology platform, product, or service. Today, that approach seems almost quaint. Companies no longer build giant flowcharts, analyze tasks, or model business requirements in advance of deploying new technology. They just pilot and adopt — often before they have a clear idea of the business problem they’re trying to solve.

Once, this launch-first mentality would have been considered heresy. Yet it has become the norm, driven by the accelerating pace of technology change, the fear of losing market share to disruptive new players, and the ease with which new technologies can be implemented through cloud-based delivery. This is a challenging environment, particularly for tradition-bound organizations. But it’s the new reality and CIOs must adapt, or they risk permanently falling behind the competition.

As part of a larger study on changes in technology implementation, Villanova Professor Stephen J. Andriole and his team spent two years collecting survey and interview data about the evolving relationship between business and technology. They talked to people in “business roles” and “technology roles” at companies across a range of industries. The most significant finding was the rapid death of detailed requirements analysis and modeling. Among survey respondents, 71 percent believed that technology can be deployed without a specific problem in mind. Just one-third said they have a clearly defined...

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