You have all heard disaster stories of computer systems going into production that are over budget, over time, and deliver less than the expected scope. And we have all heard of the new mantra: Business Value/Benefits, Benefits Management, Benefits Realization. This is all good and a step in the right direction to carry us forward from the days of the Iron Triangle of Time, Scope and Cost that some of us may feel is like the fabled albatross hanging round our necks.
BUT - what about new systems, whether those are automated or manual, that when implemented actually damage the business? You can probably think of some and if you do, please comment. This is a situation where something is implemented and everything goes to that hot place in a hand basket, costing sometimes more than the original system cost to repair.
Let's consider the recent implementation of a payroll system in a large organization in a somewhat cold country - the warming of which should not be from the heat generated by systems crashing and burning. The system went in, and it didn't even cover the core functionality of the packaged solution. What was that core functionality? Well, to grossly trivialize it, the system was meant to pay people. What does that mean? In most situations there are categories of people you pay, for example employees (Gross Pay - multiple, sometimes complex deduction = Net Pay) and contractors (Hours claimed X hourly rate from timesheets or invoices = Gross Pay - Deductions = Net Pay). As I said, this is a gross simplification, but I often find this approach serves to raise the real issues to the surface.
What I am really trying to say here is that the technical part of this implementation was, if not a piece of cake, at least very understandable and relatively easy to implement. I mean, really, have we ever paid people before? Have there been payroll and benefits systems flogged by vendors for more than a few weeks? Well, of course! When were computers invented? And before computers, haven't we been paying employees for hundreds of years? This is not rocket science or virgin territory. It takes me back to when managed the implementation of upgrades to the MSA Payroll system at Nova Corporation in Calgary decades ago. I think we can all agree that the technical solution is quite simple.
So what caused all the issues? Aside from the obvious questions we won't get into (but someone should) like "Was there a parallel run?" and "Was there a backout plan in case it didn't work?", one has to delve deeper into the underlying issues.
First of all, how was the contracting managed for this job? Was it competitive such that the job went to the lowest bidder? To that I say "You get what you pay for". Was there an algorithm for selection that put the important things at a higher priority over price, such as "Turn Key solution.", "Includes comprehensive training.", "Guarantees the system will not be implemented until it is proven to work across the organization both technically and organizationally."? These sorts of questions seem to be common sense, yet we all know the rarity of that type of sense, despite its description.
And what type of contract was it? Fixed Price? If so, was everything known at the time of the bid so that vendors can make a reasonable financial proposal? Or did they have to load their proposal down with change order ready assumptions because they didn't know enough to provide a fixed price bid?
Or was the procurement based upon the reputation of the vendor with some sort of executive order to hand them the work based on how they had performed in the past, and based perhaps on possibly unfounded assertions that it had to be done this way to avoid a lengthy procurement cycle in a "burning platform" situation?
And where did responsibility lie for successful implementation?
Now we get to the crux of the matter. IT vendors are usually very good at the technical solutions, but not so good at the human side of things - organization and process, fear of job loss, future expectation for advancement and so on. Often this is shuffled off to the client. Ever hear of the "Train the trainer" solution? You see it in so many proposals, once might say it has become a standard approach.
So far we have talked about the ease of implementing a technical solution and the methods used by large organizations to choose vendors. Now let's talk about the real subject of this article - Organizational Change Management (OCM).
There are many models for change expressed by organizations like ACMP, PMI and Prosci, and from authors like John Kotter and Jeffrey Hiatt. And these are all excellent approaches to OCM, but I have to ask: Are IT companies reading them? Are they putting deliverables and activities into their proposals to account for the steps required to manage change? Or are they weaseling out of it and transferring the responsibility to budget strapped naive clients? And are clients reading these well-founded missives of change management? If so, are they making them an integral part of a bid request? More to the point, are they willing to pay for it?
Change has to come in a package. First we start with the reason for the change strategically. Why are we making the change? What is the change exactly? Who will support the change at various levels (including the top) in the organization? Who be involved in making the change? Who will be impacted by the change? Who will see change on the receiving end? Who will be "right sized" out of a job as a result? Who will be given completely new activities to do in their job and what level of expertise will be required? How will they gain that expertise? How will you know if they have actually gained it? How will the change be woven into the fabric of the organization so that it becomes an integral part of it? How will organization structures be altered as a result of this change? Will there be support for the organizational change? Is a distributed function being centralized? Will there be resistance? How will compliance be achieved? Where will the change be implemented? How will it be implemented? Why? Who? Where? Why? What? How? Kipling and his serving men come to mind.
If you ask questions like these, you will be led down the road of good Organizational Change Management, and you will take into account all of the human factors involved in such a change. Choose the right projects, consider how you will enlighten the organization about what is coming, how you will persuade all levels of the organization to take part, how you will instruct them in the change and confirm that there was a positive effect, how you will weave it into the organization so it becomes an expected part of organizational life. And above all, how you will ensure the benefits you so diligently defined when you started all this have been or will be realized.
So, if you think of your next big contract going a vendor to make a substantial change within your organization, what forces do you have to muster? Organizational support from the top, filtering down through all parts of the organization that are impacted. Clear definition of business benefits. How communication will take place throughout the organization. How quality of the result will be ensured. How the PEOPLE in your organization will want to take part in the change to help you succeed.
Think of your next big change as a package. Strategic planning resulting in the right change being implemented. Selecting vendors who know about the technical machinations required to make your vision a reality, but are also keenly aware of the people side of things and will be there to help you through it if they are not going to do it for you. If your vendor shies away from discussions of communication, awareness, training, checking and operational institutionalization.... run in the opposite direction!
Make sure that the entire picture has been painted before you try to make your vision, your change, a successful reality.
Mike Frenette, PMP, I.S.P., CMC, SMC is a very experienced project manager who likes to post on controversial topics. For his paid job, he teaches Agile and PMP certification courses through his company, CorvoProjectManagement.com.
It might seem a little odd to write a blog item about a webinar on this same web site, but I thought those who don't know about it might gain by watching it. Besides, I'm proud that a colleague, Jordan Kyriakidis, from my home town, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and his firm, QRA Corp, have been so innovative in coming up with such a fascinating automated method of assessing requirements.
That it is being used in the aerospace industry is just "icing on the cake"!
According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, “When projects do not meet their original goals and project objectives, inaccurate business analysis/requirements management is cited as the primary cause 47% of the time.” And the increasing scale and complexity of projects is making it extremely difficult to assess and verify the project requirements. As a result - many critical errors in project and systems development arise in the initial concept & design stages.
The webinar focuses on how harnessing automated computational tools utilizing Natural Language Processing can help project managers ensure their requirements are consistently clear to ensure poorly written requirements do not infiltrate later project stages. Why not reduce stress and increase the probability of project success?
Take and hour or so to listen to Jordan Kyriakidis (and me to some extent). Judging by all the positive comments already recorded there, you'll be glad you did!
Here's a link to the webinar:
Early in my career I was fortunate to have a mentor who was very data driven. He believed that data in its purest form would help describe the processes that you might want to implement in a system, but that process analysis alone would not properly define the data and in fact, might very well define it improperly due to the usual insular aspect of looking at some processes and not all, of necessity given scope and budgets.
When I think about this at a high level in terms of typical data entities and processes, I have to believe that the metrics would support such a conclusion. If we look at any particular organization, the number of processes operating on the same, similar or related data will be very high, yet the number of entity types the organization deals with will be very low in comparison.
So let's look at a very simple example, a basic course registration system. Here are the entity types we'll deal with:
Here are some business rules around the data:
From this simple example, I conclude that we have at least the following potential processes:
.... and so on ... and so on... and so on...
All of the processes I listed come directly from the two entities, student and course, along with the attributes each has and the relationships they have, one with the other. I am sure with a little extra thought, the list could be doubled. I am also sure that some of the processes listed have nothing to do with a student registration system, and more to do with other systems, and so could serve to put some rope around both the data (and its attributes) and the processes to be able to plan multiple projects as part of a program.
Furthermore, since we all know there is a many-to-many relationship between Courses and Students, we are probably missing an Entity Type - one that is fairly obvious anyway - something called "Course Registrations" which becomes a one-to-many relationship with each "Kernel" entity type, resolving the many-to-many relationship by adding the "Associative" entity type. And we won't even get into the difference between registrations and transcripts, whether things like marks even belong in this model, etc.
I obviously invented a lot of the processes I listed, and they would likely be very different if I actually had stakeholders to help me along (or would they?). It may reveal new business rules, such as those student registration privacy or restrictions on instructor performance data, or the absence of processes, such as being able to label other students who are your friends, and seeing which courses they have registered for.
A very simple example, of course, but from two entities (which eventually became three), I was able to derive at least 18 processes (some actually have multiple processes per line), and I did that as quickly as I could type. Confirmation with the stakeholder would take much longer, of course.
Trying to create a long list of processes and then deriving the data from them, rather than letting the data drive the derivation of processes, is, I feel, much more complex, time consuming and subject to errors and omissions.
What do you think? Are you process driven, or data driven? Were you one and became another at some point in time?
Before you answer, remember the CRUD (or CUDDL) I mentioned in a previous post. Don't know what that is? Look up "Of CRUDs and CUDDLs" :)
PMI's Pulse of the Profession's recent report on Requirements Management by Dave Bieg (see pmi.org) tells us that "47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management". How do your failed projects line up with this statistic? Oh, I see - you don't have any failed projects. Well... that's okay. I'm sure we all wish you future success on all your projects and we'll move on to those of us who live in the real world. ;)
Projects are complex organizational units that set out to accomplish specific goals in a defined period of time with defined resources. The clear part of that statement revolves around time and money. A bucket of money and some start and end dates we can easily understand. Non-financial resources like people maybe are a little more hazy. But what about that blurry word "goals"? Sure - we can all understand it at some level, especially during the honeymoon phase of project start up when it tends to be a few sentences in a project charter. But when it gets down to the nitty gritty, lofty goals translate into detailed requirements that have to be collected, recorded, confirmed, managed and satisfied.
This is a large topic. Reams of material have been written just on conducting effective interviews and workshops; body language; communicating; interpersonal interaction; preparing, sending and analyzing surveys; correlating results and achieving agreement or at least consensus. And that's only a part of requirements collection, never mind deciding when requirements should be defined, how they should be recorded, achieving confirmation; managing changes to them after the fact as business/organizational needs change and being sure that your project satisfies all of the requirements that were stated in the first place, if that is your mandate depending on the type of project your are running. More complex topics, indeed.
So - these are some of the problems with which we wrestle on a daily basis as we drive our projects toward the elusive goal of meeting requirements to our clients' satisfaction. Are there solutions that might help? Of course there are! Keep an eye on this space for more beyond this initial little teaser.