Championing the ‘why’: Securing business buy-in for change

Published on the 04/04/2018 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Cigna CIO says when the business understands the rationale behind strategic decisions, execution gets a whole lot easier…

Why you’re doing something is actually more important than what you end up doing,” insists Carmen Casagranda.

“If you go down the road of changing technology without knowing why you’re changing it then you’re never going to meet requirements because no-one is clear on the ‘why’.”

Casagranda, Cigna CIO and presenter at the forthcoming 2018 BA Forum (taking place on 28-29 May at Auckland’s Crowne Plaza), says that too often business analysts focus solely on ‘what’ they’re delivering, rather than the ‘why’. This mindset can lead to the most well-intended technology- or process-based initiatives being damned from the outset.

Coming in to the role to improve Cigna’s technology focus, Casagranda was appointed CIO in 2015 – the company’s first – after serving as IT director for four years. She was also a key driver behind the company’s move to an Agile framework in 2014, which last year was scaled across the entire company.

“One of the projects we focus on is ensuring that our communication with customers is in clear, natural, easy-to-understand language,” she says. “So we’ve got an internal project going through all our historical insurance policies and updating that language. For us the business benefit is that our customers have a better understanding of what they are purchasing and that’s worthwhile, but it’s not necessarily going to have a direct impact on revenue.”

The trick, says Casagranda, is justifying the value of those sorts of intangibles across the company. And that’s where the ‘why’ comes into building support.

“If you’re delivering a project, there needs to be a clear understanding of why something is being done, and then, ultimately, making sure that whatever is built is looped back to what we want to do strategically.”

“That way we can see, at the C-level, if what we’ve done is consistent with the delivery roadmap and if what we’re delivering is in line with the strategy. That’s one of the key aspects of what we do here at Cigna: constantly reviewing our priorities and examining what the business benefit is.”

Casagranda says that Cigna’s C-level exec team prioritise key deliverables every quarter. Then, making sure that the rationale behind those priorities is communicated across the business is, itself, a priority.

“If people are not having those discussions regularly then the output of a deliverable is unlikely to meet what the intended request was for and that’s when you start to see delays,” she says.

“It’s why traditional waterfall projects have always had such long lead times, and ultimately can be more expensive to deliver properly. Because if you go into a long development cycle without understanding why you’re developing it then, generally, what comes off the back of it is going to be maybe 10 percent of what people want…and 90 percent of what they don’t want.”

The secret, says Casagranda, is to do little and often, collecting feedback all the way – there’s always the option to take a different tack if things aren’t rolling out according to plan.

“That’s the great thing about working in an Agile way. The concept of delivering the minimum viable product might inform you to go in a completely different direction, but if you’re only focused on what you are delivering, then you’ll generally go down your first route whether it’s right or not.”

To keep such a feedback-heavy way of working on track requires discipline says Casagranda, but it also requires flexibility.

“One of the things we do – which we call our ‘Cignification of Scaled Agile’ – is we try to pragmatically use the methodology rather than be purist with its application.”

“Being excessively purist about this stuff, you’re more likely to fail because there are different ways of doing things across projects and across an organisation.”

“Be pragmatic and use the right tool for the day. Treat it like a toolbox, because there is no right and wrong way to do this.”

If you’re interested to hear more on the practical application of Agile methodologies you can catch Casagranda, along with other expert presenters, live at the 2018 New Zealand Business Analyst Forum.


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