It wasn't that long ago that smartphone hardware and software companies were locked in a life-and-death battle, and the current dominance of Apple, Google, and Samsung was not a fact of life but one of a dozen potential outcomes. At various times companies from Blackberry to Microsoft to Nokia were potential victors, and every few months brought us a new market entrant, new phone, or new mobile operating system.
The dust of the smartphone wars has largely settled, with the market maturing to predictable release cycles and hardware refreshes rather than dramatic new launches. What's interesting about the end of the smartphone wars is that you'll often hear hardware companies talk about the "peace dividend" from this period.
The trillions spent on R&D and deployment of mobile hardware and software created revolutionary leaps in everything from microprocessors, to tiny multiband radios, to improved batteries, and power consumption technologies. Taken alone these technologies might have limited applications, but taken together they've given us everything from cheap drones to ubiquitous, fast, mobile networks, and to industrial sensor packages the size of an insect and the cost of a pack of chewing gum. Like the space program or even some of the great world wars, the money and effort spent winning the war (real or hyperbolic) had a cascading effect on technology advancement.
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Capturing your peace
If your company is like most, you've probably worked through a series of major projects or implementations that felt at times like a protracted military campaign. Your company probably spent significant amounts of cash, time, and activity on the effort, and hopefully arrived at a successful outcome. What your company likely did not do was take the time and comparatively tiny effort to collect the "peace dividend" of that effort, and budgets, people, and company attention spans diverted to the next big thing.
While it's fairly common to conduct a post-mortem on a project and identify what went well and what went poorly from an execution standpoint, it's less common to take the time to identify potential spoils of the effort that can be leveraged in other areas of the company. As you wrap up your next big effort, after dusting yourself off, take the time to collect the peace dividend along the following three fronts.
In the metaphorical heat of battle within a complex implementation project, it's easy to pile up good ideas in the do-it-later bin in the name of getting the larger project completed. There's nothing wrong with this practice; however, you run the risk of abandoning items where a small effort could result in a big payoff. A few weeks of building a better user experience might get abandoned in order to push a complex project across the finish line; however, you'll never collect the full peace dividend of that project unless you make the technology accessible through an easy interface.
Look for areas where a one- to four-week sprint could exponentially improve the underlying project you implemented, whether through training, interface enhancements, or even something as simple as a company-wide awareness campaign and road show to spread the message about what you've created.
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As an IT pro, it's likely that the project you just completed involved some sort of technology. Ask how you can leverage the technology you just deployed more broadly or connect it to other areas of your company to build a more robust platform. Perhaps you implemented a system to track customer data for the shipping department, and with a modicum of additional work could share that data with another department. Perhaps you deployed a new cloud platform for your accounting department, that could also be leveraged by marketing to speed some of their pending projects. Too many IT projects start with a grand vision of integrated, cross-company technologies that are lost during the process and never realized.
During the project there were likely staff and managers that rose to the occasion, unflaggingly driving the project to completion. Not only should these people be rewarded for their efforts, but the skills they gathered during the project should be acknowledged and potentially provide them access to new roles.
Someone who demonstrated great project management (PM) abilities might be an obvious fit for your next PM role, but you should also look more deeply. Perhaps that self-starting PM was so successful because he or she could simply convey the vision for the project and rally support, a rare talent that could be better exploited as a leader versus merely a "Gantt chart jockey."
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With a bit of time and diligence, you can collect a peace dividend from your most complex projects for years to come, transitioning IT projects from a painful event that everyone wishes to forget, to a recurring source of competitive advantage that makes the next round of projects that much easier to justify.
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Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.