The risk associated with developing and deploying integrated systems has many dimensions – complexity, novelty, speed, technology, social, political and others. The greater the risk the greater the need for some form of overarching governance and the adoption of risk mitigating approaches.
High levels of complexity are best addressed using a systems approach to compartmentalise the requirement and develop a modular solution architecture that minimises and clearly defines interdependencies. Systems thinking should apply to both the solution and the organisations that collaborate to deliver it.
High levels of novelty are best addressed by adopting an evolutionary approach based on prototyping, testing, learning and adaptation. Early engagement with the end-user community and operational environment is normally helpful (unless you’re Apple).
Speed has a significant bearing on the levels of governance that can be successfully applied. Agility requires fast decision cycles and focused organisation. Time-boxing and feature prioritisation will be important. Development and deployment will both likely benefit from a strategy of progressive elaboration.
The inclusion of high-tech solution fragments will add complexity to partitioning and interfacing considerations in addition to increasing the need for expertise. Again, systems thinking and iterative/incremental methodologies will be critical to ensure successful integration. Make-buy decisions and the formation of specialist alliances will also be an important aspect.
Social/political aspects are best managed with regular and open stakeholder engagement supported by active sponsorship. Effective communication is the most critical success factor and contributes significantly to the overall risk profile.
It is important to note that different parts of the solution may need different management approaches and this can more easily be controlled by segmentation into projects managed together as a program. Either way, running with a program or project structure for key initiatives provides a solid platform for maintaining alignment with changing environments and operational contexts. Programs can be redirected, projects can be discarded, new ones can be inserted and the overall impact can be understood and reviewed as a coherent whole. This dovetails nicely with systems thinking.