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Importance of Behavioral IT® in Software Product Management



"The proof of the pudding is in eating it". The product will succeed only if people have successfully implemented it, used it and benefitted from it. Implementation phase, which is the last mile in Product Life Cycle is the most critical and weakest link in the chain, is often ignored by the Product Managers.

Prem not only discusses the behavioral factors responsible for success or failure of this critical phase of IT product life cycle, but introduces a whole new field of research/study which he calls "Behavioral IT®". Behavioral IT is a study into the people and behavioral aspects involved in all phases of an IT product or project. He feels that this subject should be researched and taught in colleges and management courses, just as Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Finance have found a rightful place in academics and research.

Though Behavioral IT is a vast subject and beyond the scope of detailed discussion in this paper, Prem introduces the concepts and refers to more articles and papers on this subject available on his website.


 

Abstract

"The proof of the pudding is in eating it". The product will succeed only if people have successfully implemented it and benefitted from it.

Prem not only discusses the behavioral factors responsible for success or failure of IT product life cycle, but introduces a whole new field of research/study which he calls "Behavioral IT®". Behavioral IT is a study into the people and behavioral aspects involved in all phases of an IT product or project. He feels that this subject should be researched and taught in colleges and management courses, just as Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Finance have found a rightful place in academics and research.

Though Behavioral IT is a vast subject and beyond the scope of detailed discussion in this paper, Prem introduces the concepts and refers to more articles and papers on this subject available on his website.

This paper is a result of research and analysis done not on theoretical papers but during my practical experience of over 30 years on ground having developed and implemented business solutions in the toughest of situations as a CIO. It is based on keen observations and methods developed in my over 30 years of work, methods practically tested and tried and positive results achieved from these methods. It is based on extensive discussions and interactions with app levels of people involved in IT projects, from CEO to the lowest clerk.

Keywords: People aspects of IT, Behavioral Aspects of IT, Behavioral IT, IT-Driven Change Management, Psychology of Change, IT Soft-Skills, IT for CXOs, IT for Corporate Leaders, IT Strategy, IT Disruption.

Introduction

During my long career in IT as a CIO, I have worked on several products and bespoke IT projects and also successfully implemented them. I found that the easiest and the most interesting part of the IT job is technology, and the most difficult part is dealing with people, people’s resistance to change and their behaviour as they go through IT-driven change.

Hence this paper focuses on the Behavioral aspects of IT Product/IT project Life cycle.

People’s attitude, behaviour and mindset impact all aspects of a product lifecycle from system study, design, development, implementation, customer engagement and change requests during and after implementation to product maintenance.

In my experience, the cause of failures in IT projects is more to do with people and behavioural issues than technical issues. Yet behavioural issues are not given the importance that they deserve.

The vehicle of businesses runs on two uneven wheels - one wheel (technology) runs at jet speed and the other (people) at bullock cart speed. Technology changes fast, but it takes generations to change the minds and behaviour of people.

So how do we bring the other wheel to speed? How to overcome the inertia of the mind? We like to make rapid upgrades in Software, but what about upgrades to our minds?

Prem, through his very close interaction with CEOs, HoDs and top managers and through very close study of people’s behaviour during the IT transition phase has compiled his thoughts to create a framework which he has called Behavioral IT®.

"Behavioral IT®" is a term coined to address the behavioural issues of IT [3,4]. It can be looked at as a new field of study, a managerial skill or/and a strategy which deals with the psychological, behavioural and attitudinal aspects of technological change.

Behavioral IT, he feels, can be a new field of research and study like Behavioral Finance and Behavioral Economics. Behavioral IT covers all the behavioural aspects in the entire IT product/project life cycle which can contribute to the success of the project.

Though Behavioral IT covers different behavioural traits evident in different phases, in this paper, we take up just one - the inertial of the mind.

Inertia of the mind (which I have also referred to as "Living-in-the-Past Syndrome" in other articles) refers to the fact that human mind is slow to respond and adopt change. Humans continue to "live in the past" and to use the same old methods and practices though circumstances may change. Behavioral IT applies this phenomenon to explore the impact on human mind of the change from the industrial revolution to the information revolution, and its impact on man’s approach to IT.

This inertia of the mind impacts the implementation phase the most. Hence we dwell in more details on the behavioural aspects affecting the implementation stage. Implementation phase should be a matter of concern for both the product companies and businesses implementing the product, as researchers have reported a high rate of failures at implementation stage.

Implementation Phase Needs Special Attention

The proof of the pudding is in eating. Similarly, the proof of a product is in its successful implementation. Failure of a product at implementation would imply more loss for the company as investment would have already been made in product, infrastructure and possibly engaging an implementation consultant. For the product company, it is a lost opportunity to showcase the product to other prospects, and obviously loss of future revenue. It may also lead to a complete failure of the product itself needing a shutting of shop.

Implementation phase is also fairly vulnerable as the maximum number of people of all variety and all levels of hierarchy are involved. Development phase is regarded as people intensive and gets fair attention. Whereas development is done in the cool comforts of air-conditioned offices by white collared motivated high-skilled persons, implementation is done in the tense, heated environment of vested interests, personal preferences and rigid mental-emotional make-up of people reeling under the impact of IT-driven change.

As per research, failure figures of ERP products implementations are close to 70% or even higher. This should certainly be a cause of concern for product companies.

Prem feels that though companies incur huge losses due to failed implementation, researchers have not done justice to find the root cause of failure. They have stopped at identifying the cause of failure as "lack of top management participation". But I feel the researchers have not yet found solutions to this serious problem.

Research on Causes of Failure is Inadequate

In spite of such alarming figures of product implementation failures and such heavy losses incurred due to failures, surprisingly, the amount of serious research done on causes of failure is inadequate.

Researchers have identified the primary cause of failure of ERP long back. Over 30 years back, I had learnt that the primary cause of failure of ERP/IT implementations is "Lack of Top-Management Participation". Though researchers identified the cause of IT failures over 30 years back, the problem persists with 70-80% failures today - because researchers haven’t found answers to 2 basic behavioural questions, which are the root cause:

  • Why does Top-Management not participate?
  • How to ensure their participation?
And the failures continue and the immense losses continue unabated.

There is one more critical cause of failure for which there is still no solution. The turbulent situation during implementation also contributes to severe conflicts among the different teams and departments involved in implementation, particularly IT and user departments. As we said before, implementation phase creates a very tense atmosphere where most of the people involved are stressed. Users are stressed because of duplication of work, because of treading unfamiliar grounds, fear of losing job, and fear of unfamiliar technology. This gives rise to politics, blame game and conflicts.

Just as the importance of top management involvement, "Collaboration rather than conflict" is a very important prerequisite among middle management (HoDs, Project leaders, etc.). Exactly the opposite happens most often. They are more into conflict than collaborating.

Prem, through his very close study of people’s behavior during the IT transition phase, has identified the deep-rooted, not-so-obvious psychological barriers that stop Top-Management from participating, and has found techniques to break these barriers with some simple eye openers.

Behavioral IT fills these two long-standing gap in research on IT failures in Businesses (particularly lop-sided focus on Behavioral aspects), and ensures success by transforming:

  • Management apathy into Active Management Participation
  • Conflict and Politics into Teamwork and Collaboration
Not that there has been no research to identify the causes of failure and reduce failure, but this author feels that there are still gaps in research. In some areas research seems to have found a roadblock. Though researchers have identified the right emphasis on people issues, training, team building, etc., the emphasis seems to be misplaced, needing subtle course correction, as shown in Table 1. [4]

Table 1: Shortcomings in Research

What is Right What More is Desired
Key reason for failure is rightly identified as Lack of Top Management involvement.More research is required to find why top management does not participate and what needs to be done to ensure participation.
Right importance has been given to technical training for IT folks, and product training to users.Very little emphasis is given to training the primary drivers of the change – i.e. the CEO, the HODs and the senior managers.
Researchers rightly place emphasis on change management training to Change agents, top management.Yet, change management training does not cover IT-Driven change, the biggest driver of Change
Researchers rightly emphasise on People dependence of IT projects.It is limited to the production/development phase. Not enough importance has been given to people dependence of Implementation phase which is the weakest link and which engages the maximum number of people.
Team Building: Pundits have rightly emphasized on the need for Team building.Again the emphasis is mostly on the production team, since people and not machines manufacture the product. There is need to build a strong team between IT, users and top management. That is where there exists the biggest and most critical divide.
There is too much emphasis on technology.Very little emphasis on people and behavioural aspects of change.
Behavioural aspects are given importance in Usability.Behavioural aspects need importance in IT-Driven Change management /IT Implementation

It is clear that most of the issues are people related issues and behavioural issues. Behavioral IT provides solutions to most of the problems listed in Table 1.

Prem in his extensive discussions and interactions with people at all levels found that the root cause is psychological and evolutionary. Man has to evolve out of the industrial age mindset to an information age mindset.

In this paper, we will look at just one aspect of Behavioral IT – how our industrial age psychology has resulted into awe for IT and misconceptions about IT, and how Behavioral IT can help to remove them.

Behavioral IT studies the psychology of change from the industrial era to the information era.

Behavioral IT provides the breakthrough through its insights into "Living in the Past Syndrome". Though we are physically in the information age today, we still live mentally in the industrial age. This insight helps top management to overcome their inhibitions and actively participate in driving the change. This insight can help to reduce the failure rates which can largely benefit the product companies and its business users.

Industrial Age mindset versus Information age mindset - Conditioning of the mind

Man has gone through a major disruption in the past – that of the industrial revolution. It took over 100 years for the human mind to cope with machines. After years of turmoil and turbulence of industrial revolution, man was able to change his ways and adapt to industrial age. But before he could settle came another storm of the information age.

We had just mastered the disruption due to industrial machines when we got another jolt with the onslaught of computers and another revolution - the information revolution.

The inertia of the mind caused us to look at the onslaught of computers as just an introduction of yet another machine (and a superior machine as it performed multifarious tasks). The inertia also prompted us to use our old industrial age mindset to tackle this change.

The biggest mistake that man has made was to look at computers as just another machine of the machine age, and worse still, as a superior machine. The computer is a completely different animal as compared to the industrial age machine.

Behavioral IT discusses this aspect of difference between the industrial age machine and information age machine in great details [4,5,6]. To put it briefly here, computer is not a machine, it is just the fuel which runs a machine. The real machine is the software. Even software is very different in character from the machine age machine, and needs to be treated absolutely differently. Man also thought that computer was a superior machine. It is the biggest myth. Computer is a very inferior "machine" compared to the machine age machine. Whereas a machine excels in automating the motor activities of man, the computer fails miserably in automating the brain activities which it tries to simulate. All this creates a lot of confusion, sometimes high expectations which result in IT project failures.

Behavioral IT digs deep into how the industrial age mindset prevents us from using IT effectively, what habits of the industrial age need to change, and what are the new demands of the IT both physically, procedurally and mentally that can make the transition smoother.

Most significantly, industrial thinking has resulted in certain myths about IT. Man has also been conditioned to work and think in some ways. It is extremely difficult for humans to know how their minds are conditioned and what myths are clouding their vision. It takes almost a shock treatment or an eye opener for man to realize his folly. Behavioral IT provides that eye opener to look at IT clearly without the mist of myths and fallacies.

Behavioral IT attempts to correct some deep rooted assumptions and industrial-age paradigms of the mind, which need to be replaced by information-age paradigms. We need a mindset different from the industrial mindset to tackle this revolution. Over 70% failures in IT projects indicates that something is seriously wrong.

Business Managers need to mentally evolve from the industrial-age psyche to the information-age psychology to successfully face the challenges thrown by IT-driven change. Behavioral IT helps to leapfrog into the information era by changing our machine age mindset.

A study of the industrial revolution can help us to be wiser to tackle this turmoil of the information revolution. Behavioral IT draws lessons from industrial-age turmoil to derive deep insights into how to overcome current turmoil of Information age. Behavioral IT ensures the behavioural change required for Managing in the Information Era.

What Exactly is Behavioral IT?

Behavioral IT is a study of evolution of human psychology from the industrial-age to the information-age. It takes a multidisciplinary approach with major stress on psychology of change. It looks at the key features of information technology in contrast to the industrial one to draw useful conclusions as to what we need to learn and unlearn from the past to ensure a smoother change.

Behavioral IT can be looked at as a strategy or a Model to ensure success of IT projects. Behavioral IT is also a special multidisciplinary managerial skill to manager IT-Driven change.

Behavioral IT is a rare mix of Technology, Psychology and Behavioural skills.

Behavioral IT draws lessons from the biggest change in man’s history, the Industrial Revolution. It helps upgrade human Mind from Industrial Psychology to Information Psyche.

Behavioral IT works by-

  • Changing mind-set of top managers by shattering deep seated myths/paradigms
  • Quashing their fear/dislike of IT
Behavioral IT doesn’t just preach that top-management should participate, it ensures participation. This is the strength of Behavioral IT model. It transforms Managers to ‘Catalysts of IT-Driven change’, not ‘Barriers-to-Change’

Michael Hammer, the father of BPR defined the mantra of BPR as "Obliterate, do not automate". The mantra of Behavioral IT is "Collaborate, Do not Conflict"

Behavioral IT® model bridges the big divide between user-depts., IT-dept., top management and IT-Dept. This divide leads to which leads to blame game and leg pulling and is a major cause of failure.

Behavioral IT opens your eyes to the Blind Spots of IT.

Behavioral IT Model for IT Transformations provides the strategy for Businesses to avoid IT failures.

Behavioral IT Model transforms the way people

  • Perceive IT and understand IT
  • Look at IT Transformations
  • Team up to transform
  • Manage the stress of IT-Driven change
Behavioral IT allays your fears of IT as you don’t need to learn difficult technology, you only need to learn Behavioral IT which is very simple.

Managers don’t need to know IT. Managers normally manage people and manage change. Only problem is managers have not been taught how to specifically manage IT-Driven change. Behavioral IT equips managers with know-how to manage IT-Driven change.

IT is the primary driver of change in businesses today. And people naturally and strongly resist change. Behavioral IT® is a study of behavioural aspects of participants and stakeholders in an IT Implementation that can make a difference between success and failure of the project in any company. Alternately, Behavioral IT® skills are the skills required by all managers to manage people and processes impacted by rapid IT-Driven Change.

Behavioral IT is a vast subject and beyond the scope of this short article. But you can find my articles on the internet by doing a web search on "Behavioral IT". Some relevant articles which describe Behavioral IT in details are given in the References section.

Behavioral IT is More than Just Psychology and Behavior

Apart from the psychological and mindset issues concerning a change from industrial thinking to information age thinking, Behavioral IT also covers, among others, the following:

Organizational issues. Behavioral IT Model lays great emphasis on clearly defining the organisation, roles & responsibilities and the authority structure, because they play a very crucial role in the success of computerization. [12]

Managing IT- Driven Change. Prem’s Model has special trainings for the change drivers of the organization. In fact the model’s main component is a specialized training on managing IT-Driven change, with contents which is rarely covered in other change management courses. Though the training is imparted to most of the senior managers, CEO is the primary change driver in any company [8].

Team Building. Behavioral IT helps build a very strong team.

Organizational Politics. Behavioral IT helps reduce organizational politics

Do’s and Don’ts – Implementation Strategies for Success. Prem’s Model has a list of Do’s and Don’ts for every level of manager – user project manager, Head of Department and for the CEO which helps to ensure that the project does not fail [3 Behavioral IT ].

Conclusion

IT is more of a behavioural issue than technical issue. While technical training is imparted and emphasised, there is very little emphasis on behavioural training. On the contrary, most people enter the corporate world with very high expectations from IT and over-rated impressions of its capabilities. But they are in for a shock when they actually get down to using IT and participating in an IT Product/ERP implementation. They then have to learn the hard way on the job

Behavioral IT needs to be treated as a new research area and subject to be taught in management institutes like Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Finance. It will be better if the managers are taught Behavioral IT in colleges/MBA courses itself that they are IT-Ready when they enter corporate jobs.

Prem Kamble has developed a detailed curriculum for MBA Students and an experiential training/seminar for top managers, as mindset change requires experiential trainings [1,2].

You may Google on "Behavioral IT" to know more, or visit https://pukamble.tripod.com/semin..., https://pukamble.tripod.com/behavit for contents of my seminar and other articles.

Feedback and Comments may be sent at: https://pukamble.tripod.com/mail


Related Readings:

Behavioral IT® Model of Successful IT Implementations
More Seminars for CEOs, HoDs and Senior Managers by Prem Kamble
Behavioral IT Course for MBA Students - The first of its Kind in the World!
Seminars for CIOs and IT Managers
Articles and Real Life Case Stories by Prem Kamble

Also See:

Unique Behavioral IT Seminar for Top Managers

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