Business process transformation projects are complicated. Within each BPM project phase (e.g., strategy, innovation, implementation, improvement) there are many moving parts (determining objectives and KPIs, improving and building workflows and data models, adding business rules, designing layouts, integrating systems, procuring hardware, installing software, testing and deploying solutions, training personnel). These actions are coordinated among teams made up of many different roles (Business Analyst, Designer, Architect, Project Manager, Administrator, QA) all collaborating together to create solutions within a specific scope, budget and time frame.
Even with the best people, problems always occur. Common root causes include:
- We think people know what they are doing and are responsible for doing it and will stick around to complete it, but they don’t and they aren’t and they might not;
- We believe we have asked all the questions and furnished all the answers, but something was missed unintentionally or hidden intentionally;
- We assume that after agreement has been made on scope nothing will change, but once people learn the possibilities or fear the results change always happens.
How can we avoid (or at least minimize) these problems? Very good, detailed, proactive project management and program management.
Within project management, we recommend implementing planning and risk mitigation strategies up front that identify everything that can affect the success of the project downstream.
Planning and Risk Management practices cover:
- Delivery Methodology – Discuss and agree to methodology (Waterfall vs Agile) as it drives timelines, resources, and costs. Methodology applies to the what (functional) the solution does and how (technical) the solution will work. Methodology directly affects analysis, documentation, mock-ups, demonstrations, work in progress (WIP), minimal viable product (MVP), testing, and plan/do/check/act cycles.
- Assumptions, Constraints & Dependencies – Itemize and agree to all assumptions (i.e., approach, RACI, third party participation, linear vs parallel work streams, reuse of prior work), constraints (i.e., time period, budgets, resources, geography), and dependencies (i.e., IT support for integration and deployment, testing, training, release planning).
- Communications & Reporting – Itemize and agree to holding meetings (e.g., weekly reviews, stand-ups, steering committees, calendars), and determine their purpose (i.e., reviews, resolutions, awareness), audience (PM, Scrum members, Stakeholders, team members), mode (i.e., meeting, email, webex), and frequency (i.e., daily, weekly, monthly).
- Risks – Itemize and agree to risks, likelihood, impact, response, and mitigation strategy.
One major factor contributing to risk is a misunderstanding of methodology. For example, immature organizations may want Agile, but be wholly unready to support it. If very detailed technical “how-to” documentation is expected before development, project managers should realize that the desire for Agile is a facade and plan for Waterfall. Budget extra time for analysis and documentation and ensure resources are engaged who are comfortable producing such analysis and documentation (e.g., designers don’t always make the best writers).
Another example of managing risk is in the context of scope creep as stakeholders always push for extra features and functionality during development life-cycles. Individuals responsible and authorized for changes should be identified before project starts. Change Requests (e.g., new workflows and additional activities; different workflow rules, form fields, form behavior, and integration) should then be carefully classified based on need and value (cost/benefit). When stakeholders understand level of effort and associated costs they better understand how their requests affect project budgets, resources, and time lines.
Remember, the more you plan up front, the better off you are downstream when new requirements surface, people change positions, hardware isn’t ready, and/or budgets morph.