In the contemporary project world, is it enough to deliver a software project – on time, on budget and meeting the goals, pre-defined at the start of the project?
Senior Project Adam Niewęgłowski shares his views on this important question.
It is definitely essential. Although, problems still arise when a project is executed as a ‘work package’, delivered by a third party.
Quite a common practice nowadays.
In most cases, the outsourced work has very clear expectations about budget and delivery time.
Usually, there are also specific details for the features of the product to be delivered.
Sadly, the ultimate outcome of the project does not often fit customer expectations….
This is due to a lack of alignment.
The focus should not only be ‘what’ is to be delivered but why? it has been ordered in the first place.
When work is given as a ‘package’, the delivery teams have no proper insight into what the customer expectation is, from a business perspective.
Although the delivered product might meet technical and functional specifications, at the same time, it may not fully reflect the actual needs of the customer.
From experience, this is the main issue when dealing with the traditional, “big design upfront” approach.
Here, a customer spends a lot of effort describing the desired features of the product.
Once finalised, such documentation is handed over to the supplier. The delivery teams are then left alone for most of the project, with very rare touchpoints with the customer.
Even ‘proof of concepts’, done at the beginning of a project; to reduce the risk of uncertainty, generally only provide a better understanding of the product feasibility. Usually in its technical aspects.
In most cases, it does not address the business objectives, because they’re too fragmented or architecturally focused.
The outcome is a very shallow understanding of the real purpose of the product they are working on.
This gap has recently been addressed by the increasingly popular Agile Delivery Frameworks.
Agile Project Management
The proper set up of agile delivery, assumes continuous engagement of the customer, to bring insight into which features of the product are essential and must be delivered.
This helps to constantly shape the product and get the most value from the budget spent on the project.
Being ‘Agile’ allows everyone to react quickly to the changing requirements. There is a focus on the fundamental business purpose of the product.
More importantly, it puts the delivery team into the ‘big picture’ of what is to be delivered.
It allows them to understand the actual business personas, recognise the customer’s end to end processes that are being supported and provides the team with an overall business acumen.
The promise behind the agility in a delivery process seems to better suit customer’s needs. Securing the business “why” and making proper use of most of the money spent on the project.
It also enables business value to be delivered quicker. However, it still does not touch the real success factor of the project, the benefits realisation.
A Project outsourced to a supplier is rarely just a standalone entity providing a sole product.
Typically it is part of a program or portfolio, driven by the customer. It fits into a puzzle of interrelated, subsequent steps, needed to achieve an underlying business intention.
By its nature, the realisation of business goals lies on the customer’s side.
In most cases, it involves the Business Change Management process, supporting the journey from the “as is” to the “to be” state.
Work contracted as a project, regularly only provides capabilities and does not translate directly into expected benefits.
Proper Business Change Management is the most crucial part of the overall perception of the project.
It can deem it a failure or success; regardless of the quality of the product delivered. (Sadly)
Therefore at the beginning of the project, it should be clearly defined if the customer is both accountable and responsible for the management of the Business Change.
Whilst the former cannot be delegated, it might be beneficial to outsource the latter as a part of the project, or at least engage a delivery partner in the process.
The added value of such an approach would be bringing the bigger picture of a big picture for the project work.
- Immersing the product into the landscape of business aims
- Making sure all stakeholders are being managed well ahead of a product’s go-live
- Change curve issues can be addressed, not to undermine the value of the new product.
Finally, the outcomes of the project can be successfully reverted into benefits!
The success of the project is always the main goal of both parties involved – the customer and the supplier.
Neglecting the Business Change is simply not managing the work properly.