James Rosewell, Managing Practitioner Pelicam
I’ve been thinking back over my career at all the technology upgrade programmes I’ve been involved with and reflecting on the common themes. I’ve become paranoid about the amount of technical risk known and unknown with upgrade projects because so many have been so hard to deliver. In theory the technology has been built, operated and is well understood. Why then should it be so hard to change? The answer very often lies with the original delivery.
Picture a pressurised business that must absolutely have the new technology live to support a new time-critical business initiative. Work streams don’t want to appear on top management radar, at least not in a bad way, and focus on sticking to their brief - a brief which measures budgets and timelines with a passing nod to quality. And there’s the problem - quality can be adjusted to keep the project off that radar.
Technologists choose the cheap, quick fix. A supplier rushes the documentation, temporary network and hardware solutions are used. All in an effort to stay off the top management radar and maintain the all important green or amber status. The new technology is launched to a fanfare and sighs of relief. “We made it!” Now the quick fixes have been recorded and the documentation gaps have not been forgotten, nor the fact the hardware needs an upgrade………everyone agrees a “close down” phase is needed.
A diligent Finance Director asks about the business case for this “close down” phase. And no one can justify it, particularly when compared to all the other shiny new business initiatives. There goes any last chance of achieving a quality deliverable, at least in technical terms.
Why is this important?
If the business initiative is being met why is this important? Pressurised businesses rarely stand still and enhancements will always be required. A business case will be created which may not take into account the shortfalls in the previous delivery, or maybe still doesn’t justify the resolution. This continues over many years and businesses are left with solutions that are costly to maintain and support. Who knows, a new CIO may come in and make their name replacing this horrible old solution?
So how do we avoid these pitfalls?
1. Businesses need to ensure they view technology investment over its lifetime and not just the duration of a project or programme.
2. Programmes need sufficient contingency budget to address problems post initial delivery.
3. Quality needs to be measured and decisions taken concerning it with the same importance as time and cost.
4. An environment needs to be created where problems can be reported as easily as success. Particularly from the technologists.
I’ve recently worked with a client that managed to achieve much of this. They’ll benefit for many years to come.