This time I'd like to expand the context discussion to include the rest of the variables that influence the technology acquisition, deployment and support processes... and, for that matter, all corporate behavior.
Politics is one part of the overall context that decisions are made in. The others include the culture of the company, the quality and character of the leadership, the financial condition of the company, and the overall financial state of the industry, the national and global economies.
The three most obvious pieces of the puzzle include the pursuit of collaborative business models, technology integration and interoperability, and, of course the management best practices around business technology acquisition, deployment and support. Other pieces, which round out the context that decisions are made in, include politics, leadership, the economy and culture.
As suggested last time, it's important to assess the political quotient of your company. Some companies are almost completely political. A few people make decisions based only on what they think, who they like (and dislike), and on what's good for them personally (which may or may not be good for the company).
Other companies are obsessive-compulsive about data, evidence and analysis. In the middle, are most of the companies out there, with some balance between analysis and politics.
Corporate culture is another key decision-making driver.
Is your culture adventurous? Conservative? Does your company take calculated risks? Crazy risks? Are you early -- or late -- technology adopters? Does your culture reward or punish risk takers? When they tell you to ''think outside the box'', is that code for ''I dare you to challenge the status quo''? It's important to assess your corporate culture accurately. Technology investments must sync with the culture (as well as the rest of the variables that comprise the total decision-making context).
What about corporate leadership? Is it smart? Is it old to the point of nearing retirement? Is everyone already rich? Is everyone still struggling to get back to where they were in 1999? Is it embattled? Is the senior management team mature or adolescent? Is it committed to everyone's success or just its own? Is it compassionate or unforgiving?
The key here is the overall leadership ability of the senior management team. There are some really smart, skilled and honorable management teams out there and there are some really awful ones, as well. Trying to sell a long-term technology-based solution to a self-centered team with only their personal wealth in mind simply won't work. Trying to sell the same solution to a team that embraces long-term approaches to the creation of broad shareholder value usually works very well.
How well is the company really doing? Is it making money? More money than last year? Is it tightening its belt? Has the CIO received yet another memorandum about reducing technology costs? Is the company growing financially? Is there optimism or pessimism about the future? Is your industry sector doing well? Are you the only defense contractor losing money? Or is everyone in the same boat? Is the general economy looking good or are there regional, national or global red flags? What's the confidence level for the sector and the economy? Where's the smart money going?
It's essential to position your company within the larger economic forces that define national and global bear and bull markets.
Be sure to touch all of these bases as you prepare to launch a new technology effort. While the business case may be strong, there are other factors that can dramatically influence the outcome of the process. Pay very close attention to politics, culture, leadership, the company's financials and the overall national and global economies.
If the lights are all red, maybe it's a bad time to propose any changes or any large technology investments. But if there are some red, but mostly yellow and green lights, then perhaps it's time to work the context to your advantage.
One thing is for sure: Ignoring any of the pieces will jeopardize your chances of success.