Organizational Issues Impacting Competitive Advantage


As the business climate continues to evolve in the Information Age, the number and complexity of IT projects relating to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Business Process Management (BPM) continues to increase as a means for companies to remain competitive in their industries.  The variety of business applications that can be derived from these solution sets and the compliance requirements that they can address are what make ECM & BPM such widespread and indispensable response tools for today’s business challenges.

However even with the increased prevalence of ECM & BPM related solutions within organizations, regardless of their sophistication level, many companies are still far from reaching the degree of competitive advantage they set out to when these projects began.  In trying to understand why these solutions fell short of expectation, the technology itself is often made the fall guy.

While it is true that risks associated with gaps in technology feature sets or with the technical deployments do exist, these risks are relatively easy to minimize and overcome or work around in most cases.  The technology is typically not the real problem when trying to diagnose why a major corporate goal of increasing competitive advantage, via cost savings, innovative differentials, or both was not met.  The biggest issues that threaten project success are almost always organizational, political and/or cultural in nature. 


Experience shows that when it comes to organizational issues, political issues or cultural issues threatening the outcome of a project, it can be uncomfortable to even acknowledge them, let alone directly address them.  Some of the more common problems are:

  • Resistance to change – Asking end users to adopt anything new can be difficult on even the best day due to the basic human nature of being most comfortable with the status quo.  There are a number of methods for overcoming this resistance, but it should never be a “one size fits all” approach because individuals are unique in their motivations and their fears.  Implementing any change management program successfully must place special emphasis on “what’s in it for me?” at the individual level.  
  • Competing agendas – If project stakeholders have competing or hidden agendas, implementing a project can become infinitely more difficult or near impossible.  These issues can be the most delicate to handle and also the most critical.  At times the solution is to get everything out in the open and at other times complete discretion is required in resolution.  A useful tactic is to clearly understand each stakeholder’s individual goals in relation to the project at the outset so that conflicts arise early and can be addressed swiftly. 
  • Weak sponsorship - When a project lacks appropriate executive buy-in, the problems will begin the day a business case is started and echo all the way through planning and execution.  These problems can surface in relation to the project timeline, the budget or the scope. The active support and participation of an executive sponsor is invaluable because of the credibility and authority they bring to a project.

The best strategy for combating these types of issues is to anticipate them up front and proactively plan so that they can be avoided or quickly and easily resolved should they arise.

Looking Ahead

Businesses will increasingly turn to ECM & BPM solutions, which offer promises of compliance, innovation and operational efficiencies to help them achieve the competitive advantages they seek.  The investments will grow and it will soon be unacceptable to allocate resources five times over because of underwhelming results or the complete failure of these initiatives.

As it becomes more obvious that the technology itself is not the primary cause of these project failures, companies will be forced to address the softer issues that are organizational, political and cultural in nature because in order to remain competitive, they simply won’t be able to afford to minimize or ignore them any longer.


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