The Steering Committee plays a key role to Drive, Vision, Governance, and Budget and hence overall success on large implementation projects.
Who sits on the steering committee?
Typically, Steering committees will have key stakeholders, the Programme Sponsor – CIO/IT Director, Senior Business representatives from the divisions which will be the ultimate recipient of the solution, CFO/FD and implementation partner, Account Manager.
How does it work?
The Project/Program Managers, Change Manager and the Solution Architect generally report to Steering Committee meetings to provide insights on progress and challenges, to help inform major decisions.
Why have a steering committee?
Large implementation projects are not just IT projects, they have a huge business transformation impact. Effective steering committee involvement is vital to take key decisions considering the overall impact on the business and to leverage opportunities provided by the solution.
Change is always difficult to implement in any organisation. It’s often perceived as a threat rather than something which could help an organisation to move forward, there is always a looming fear of job losses when efficiency gains are mentioned. To implement a strong change management strategy, the Steering Committee must have real involvement:
- in providing clarity of the change that’s coming,
- strong decision making
- allocating right business resources who can connect with business
- Give confidence to investing a short-term cost to deliver a long term gain.
The risks of a disjointed steering committee
We have seen projects run successfully without a Steering Committee, but only where a senior manager is seconded to the project who has appropriate authority, understands the business very well and knows people in the business.
An effective Steering Committee can provide the right Leadership and guidance and provide an effective environment for project success. But, an ineffective steering committee can be very damaging. We have seen the effectiveness of the Steering Committee being impacted for the following reasons:
- No one from the Steering Committee is assigned a role to drive the vision. The focus then shifts on governance, timelines and budget control. Hence a high percentage of IT projects fail in achieving the vision set out for the project an estimated as high as 80% of the projects fail to deliver the complete vision).
- Time commitment from the Steering committee members mostly boils down to attending meetings to view a status report and ensure its all ‘green’. Hence the project team becomes reluctant to share the true picture as they feel there is no appreciation and understanding at an appropriate level.
- Both business and IT teams are relatively new to Cloud technologies and associated project methodologies – especially how cloud packaged solutions can be implemented in an agile mode.
- Business do not (and rightly so) have much IT project experience. This causes issues as they fail to assess IT Project nuances, typical risks faced, their role in decision making, impact on timelines, cost, and scope. For example, business users may demand changes without fully appreciating the impact on costs and timelines.
- Steering groups either micromanage or take an arms-length approach whereby they only want to hear good news on the project progress and that’s what they get till it’s too late to salvage the situation.
- Ineffective Leadership, failing to take decisions that will provide the right steer to the project could seriously threaten timelines and sometimes spiral costs.
Projects must have a clear purpose and presence across the whole business
We have seen projects where there has been little business involvement. To-be processes are defined and then IT delivers in isolation. These projects run into trouble as the business keeps evolving and change is constant. Hence being agile and working with the business with appropriate governance is key.
Similarly, we have seen projects where IT is not involved early enough. The business embarks on unconstrained thinking with no sense of realism. Time and money are wasted. The Steering Committee must play a key role in ensuring the right balance between these positions is achieved.
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