Mar 16 2015

Make IT Work: Explaining the "FUN" Principle

Brian Katz, director of end-user experience and innovation for Sanofi, breaks down his perspective on IT collaboration.

BIZTECH: When planning a technology project and building a business case, when and how should different teams be pulled into the process, and what are the factors to consider?

Brian Katz

BRIAN KATZ: In the initial planning stages, once you get past “Here’s what we want to do,” you have an introductory meeting where you brief everybody and tell them at some point they will all be part of this. If they don’t know something’s coming, no one likes that — and no one is prepared. If they are in it from the beginning, it’s more of a partnership.

Whom you invite depends on the project. In many cases, if you are building an app or service, you need security involved from the beginning. You need your developers, business and IT. I always make the case that you need your users. A big thing for me is what I call the “FUN” principle, which is “Focus on User Needs.” Many times, the business requesting an app doesn’t talk to its own users. They just know they want to get a certain job done. But sometimes the business requirements and the users’ needs don’t fully match up, and that becomes dangerous for the developers because they may end up developing the wrong thing.

You need to know what the users’ needs are fairly early on. I talk to a lot of people outside Sanofi, and sometimes when they roll out an app or service, people hate it. They get feedback and say, “I had no idea that was what they were looking for.”

BIZTECH: What role should each of the different groups — IT, senior management, line of business leaders, project managers, users — play in the business case, from conception through to purchase?

Brian Katz

KATZ: Whoever asked for an app or service should hopefully define what it is. If IT comes up with an idea to help the business, they should help business come up with the business case. If it’s an IT-focused project, the business will ask IT for those numbers. Otherwise, the business will strive to build that number case before it gets to you.

At Sanofi, we try to figure out how it will save us money or be more productive. We come at it from different angles and figure out which one applies. In some cases, certain technologies are going out of service, and we have to be compliant.

BIZTECH: What works well and what doesn’t when different teams within a company work together on a business case?

Brian Katz

KATZ: One issue you can run into sometimes is that you have too many people involved. When that happens, you tend to forget what you are doing and why you are doing something. You come up with a billion reasons, and trying to figure out what’s the right one can be awfully tough.


BIZTECH: How do the lines of business continue to be involved after the business case and strategy are developed?

Brian Katz

KATZ: If it’s an IT-focused project that requires everyone to work together, IT has to keep the business involved. If IT doesn’t, then you may not end up with the project you are looking for.


BIZTECH: As the buy and deployment takes place, how should the group morph to ensure a smooth transition to rollout, and then training and support?

Brian Katz

KATZ: Some companies have rollout teams; others don’t. But if it’s an app they’re building, they may have an app store and put it in the store. Have a communications team that helps with communications materials, so you can let users know an app or service is coming and what to expect. A service delivery team has to support it as it rolls out. They interface with users on support issues and are tasked with supporting the back end.

Also, run analytics to make sure the apps are being used — that people are happy and are getting what they expected. We live in a consumerized society, where you don’t just roll out an app, walk away and expect it to last for three years. You have to look at feedback.

In the end, the hope is the app helps people become more productive and efficient. The questions become: How do we continue to improve it? Is the app perfect and just needs to be fixed a couple of times a year when a new iOS or Android OS comes out? Or are there other parts of the process that we can track to make things better for people?

BIZTECH: What’s the best lesson learned, tip, critical consideration or best practice you would share from being involved in major IT projects when it comes to smart business case practices and working with teams within a company?

Brian Katz

KATZ: Involving people early is huge. If you bring them on late, it doesn’t work out as well. People tend to get upset. They don’t necessarily want to help, and it slows the project down. So involve people early and focus on the users’ needs as you build the business requirements to create the business case.


Katz writes regularly about mobility in his blog, A Screw’s Loose. He also hosts a weekly Twitter chat on mobility in business through the #mobilebiz hashtag.

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