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Organizational Change Management: The Most Critical Requirement of All!

Rethink Requirements: The Natural Language Processing Approach

Quality - Consider it in all Knowledge Areas!

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Organizational Change Management: The Most Critical Requirement of All!

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, 


Posted on: February 08, 2017 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Quality - Consider it in all Knowledge Areas!

Categories: Quality

When you think of quality as a PM, does your mind race to the quality management plan section of your project management plan? If so, do you think you normally cover all aspects related to the other nine knowledge areas? If not, it may be time!  

Quality is somewhat ephemeral, isn't it? It's like asking, "How long is a piece of string?"  We have to get much more succinct than that when we are dealing with quality on projects.  Consider using a Deliverable Expectation Document, where you go over a deliverable with a client, and define the level of quality needed, to which requirements it relates, and who will review and sign off the final deliverable. Maybe this is the Definition of Done and/or the Acceptance criteria in an Agile project.

So, how does quality relate to the other knowledge areas? What should you consider when composing your Quality Management Plan? Or conversely, what should you consider about quality in each of the other plans? Here is my take on it: 

  1. Scope - Of course, scope is where we start with quality. What is in scope, what is not in scope. Once we understand scope, we can start asking questions about the level of quality required. For example, if the scope of the project is to create a manual set of processes to help in the selection of products for monthly sales in a do it yourself store, what does quality look like? Do you know? Of course you don’t! You will need to discuss with your sponsor and stakeholders to figure that out. Maybe part of the process needs to take into account several factors, such as what is overstocked, what is being phased out, or what will draw customers to buy other related items that are not on sale. Or maybe it is about rotating from department to department to make sure everything in the store is covered over a period of time so that all types of customers are drawn to the store. So what does quality mean in this example? Probably that each of these situations are taken into consideration in the processes so that all the needs are met.
  2. Time - Quality processes take time, and time is money. So we must always pay attention to the cost of quality. It is fairly obvious that you can’t introduce so many quality-related processes that we spend 90% of our time in the project performing then. On the other hand, if we don’t have sufficient effective quality control processes, we may spend a lot of time in quality assurance finding issues that shouldn’t really be there, and sending work back to be redone. And as we all know, rework costs time …. and money!
  3. Cost - We’ve already established that any process will cost time, and so it will also cost money. We’ve also established that rework, caused by ineffective quality control processes, costs time, and so it, too, costs money. What is the cost of the quality processes you will have to implement? What is the cost of not implementing them? Rework: time and money!
  4. Risk - What are the risks associated with quality? They are always present. There is the risk of not being sufficiently detailed in finding out what we are supposed to be building and to what level of quality. We try to mitigate this with DEDs/Def of done/Acceptance Criteria, and so on. There is that risk of rework. There is the risk that the product as produced will not be accepted. There is even the risk that we may try as best we can to get the definition of quality down accurately through discussions, models, documents and definitions, but that we end up getting it wrong anyway! So, taking quality into account during risk planning, identification, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis and response planning is critical.
  5. Communication -  Communication deliverables need quality definition like any other. And, of course, communicating what needs to be produced, who will define it, who will approve it is just as important. So, quality comes into play when producing communication deliverables, and is also used as the main tool in defining the required levels of quality for each of the project deliverables.
  6. Human Resources - Quality is, of course, something that each member of the project team must own. They should be asking very detailed questions about what it is they are supposed to be producing, to what level of quality, and asking questions about how to ensure they are producing the right thing the first time, that which is expected by the client (QA). They should also be asking about the processes for ensuring they have produced the right thing (QC). If they don’t feel they have the skills to meet the expected level of quality, they should speak up, ask for training or mentoring, and even to be replaced if the timing for it would be poor, so they can work on a project where their stronger skills can best be utilized. Your team members should be asking questions like, “Where’s the DED or Definition of Done?”, "what are the quality assurance processes?”, “What are the Quality Control processes”? "Who will be accepting the product I am producing?”, “Who are the relevant stakeholders?”, and so on. Your team produces the deliverables that must meet the defined levels of quality and acceptance criteria. They must perform any necessary rework to get their deliverables into the required state. They are key. They control and assure quality.
  7. Stakeholders - Of course, your project’s stakeholders are key to defining required levels of quality by being instrumental in development of DEDs, DoDs, and detailed definition of what the deliverables should look like, who should be involved in the requirements definition and who will review and accept the final deliverable. They help define your work. They sign off on your work. They can send work back for rework. Could they be any more important? Your client and sponsor are in this group, and so are all the others who can impact your project’s quality expectations. Who could be more important? If you have the best team on the planet, producing exactly the wrong things to the highest levels of quality as defined by the wrong stakeholders, you have nothing. So, find out from your sponsor who to involve, then involve them!
  8. Procurement - Quality is just as important when it comes to procurement. You need to translate your stakeholders’ quality requirements for your vendors and then you need to be sure your vendors are producing the right stuff. You may also want to get into the internal processes of your vendor’s deliverable production and overall project management so you can be sure they are running a quality operation. If not, you may find that the deliverables sent to you by the vendor are not what you, or more importantly, your stakeholders, expect. And as we all know, the buck stops with you, the project manager. You are responsible for quality on the project, and that includes everything delivered by a vendor. So in your planning, what processes will you have in place to ensure quality work from the vendor?
  9. Integration - So, we have seen that quality permeates ALL of the nine other knowledge areas, and must be dealt with in all process groups. Integration is the realm of the PM and by its very name insinuates interplay among them all. As we have seen, quality is no exception. In fact, it is probably the rule. So build it into your projects. And remember - you can't test quality

How do you plan for, assure and control quality on your projects?

Posted on: November 08, 2016 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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