One of the first things I examine when I take on a new team are the existing processes (or lack thereof) that are used to manage their work. Some think that processes and governance are unnecessary bureaucracy that slow teams down and add little value. Most leaders, however, understand that they help drive efficiency, account for exceptions, set prioritization, and promote repeatable outcomes.
When working with a technology team, one of the first processes I review is change control governance and implementation. For software systems specifically, I recommend a governance process similar to this:
This process takes a feature or enhancement request through a month-long due diligence process intended to inform, and gain consent from, business owners and then, assuming the agreement of those business owners, pass along the request to the governance committee for review and vote. Why so many steps between request submission and governance? The due diligence process should eliminate clutter from ever reaching the governance committee.
Once a feature or enhancement request has successfully gone through the governance process, the request enters a software development life-cycle as described below:
The requirements gathering and development-testing processes may both need to be completed multiple times prior to acceptance but teams that skip any of these steps put themselves at risk for developing solutions that fall well short of the desired functionality.
As the development effort nears the implementation state, having a robust communication plan becomes critical. End users need to be educated on the change or enhancement coming their way but this communication plan serves another purpose as well: To showcase the work that the technology team is engaged in. Below is an example of a communication plan that I have used successfully:
This basic communication plan takes two (2) weeks to implement once the message(s) have been developed and approved. Some plans may take longer to complete due to training requirements or the scope of the changes being implemented.
As an aside, why, as a technology leader, should you be concerned with the visibility of the work that your team is successfully doing? Three reasons immediately come to mind:
- Communicating effectively minimizes the risk that the end-users are “surprised” by the enhancement or new feature that is being implemented.
- Communicating effectively highlights the work that the team is doing that supports the work of the organization as a whole, contributing to the view that the team is a strategic, valuable part of the larger team.
- Communicating effectively highlights the work that the team is doing that supports the engagement of the team, contributing to higher levels of job satisfaction.
I believe that good processes are the foundation for team success and should be ignored at the peril of an organization. New leaders should not simply scrap existing processes but, at the same time, all processes should be reviewed from time-to-time to ensure that they are still relevant and operating as expected, or are candidates for review, revision and improvement.