How streamlining decision making improved prioritisation at Cochlear

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Medical device giant Cochlear recast how it prioritised technology projects, and the new model led to a 12 per cent increase in the IT team's engagement score.

This is despite the fact that the new model actually involves IT ultimately working on fewer projects concurrently.

Cochlear CIO David Hackshall talks about this achievement in the mini documentary about IT prioritisation featured at the start of this story. The video and this story is part of iTnews Digital Nation, our deep dive into the digital fitness of Australian organisations.

One important reason for the change in perceptions at Cochlear is that output and velocity have materially improved, Hackshall says, as the amount of concurrent work has fallen to a fraction of the previous amount. 

Before the company implemented a strategy around prioritisation, Hackshall described its process as “whoever screamed the loudest got the resource”.  

This ad hoc model is not only costly, but it didn’t provide the business with assurance that the projects being worked on were the most effective choice, rather than simply being at the whim of the most powerful voice.  

The company’s new approach involves IT stepping back and the business leaders stepping up. 

Hackshall says the key factor in the new strategy is evaluating the business value of the ask. 

“We want to understand the business value of the ask, want to understand the regulatory requirements of the ask, we want to understand whether or not the ask aligns to the strategic objectives of the organisation, all with a view of then having that ranked against other asks,” he says. 

Hackshall describes it as a “fairly robust process” that involves management determining how the ask aligns with these key objectives and then scoring the ask without contribution from the IT practice. 

Once the business teams have established the priorities, IT creates a “complexity score”. 

“Now, instantly, now you've got a two by two matrix capability, a business value and an IT value,” Hackshall says. 

Every six weeks all stakeholders are brought in to debate the priorities based on the calculated scores, ranking the asks from the most valuable to the least valuable. 

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