In very short period, COVID-19 overwhelmed lives and caused global changes towards remote oriented work and created the need for digitalization of businesses and services. The ongoing pandemic accelerated the digital revolution and forced many companies to rethink their business strategies and re-evaluate their online presence. This has caused many to push forward the prioritization of their digital channels as a means of engaging their customers and driving revenue.
Large-scale projects, that address the need of reforming processes to successfully execute new business strategies, emerged. But the risk of them failing the planned budgets, time schedules, and especially not delivering the value planned, increases exponentially with their size and complexity.
However, there are 5 key factors, that if taken into consideration, will help to successfully mitigate the risk of failing the delivery and increase the probability of resulting in the promised value.
1. Ensure business focus
Ensure from the very start that there is business focus behind decisions. The requirements must be aligned with measurable business targets.
If clearly defined and well understood business targets and goals are missing, there is a high probability that the adoption of your new solution by your business will fail. This will imminently result in the need for further changes, increased investment costs and ever-expanding time to market.
While the business strategy is defined and the goals and targets set, new processes will emerge. The new processes would require definition and validation if they will fit the organization and can be executed. Furthermore, specific requirements and needs can emerge for different segments, markets, or country subsidiaries, that should be discovered and defined as early as possible to avoid late surprises.
If the processes are not yet planned by the time requirements are gathered or worse, during the first release, the chances are that the newly developed solution won't meet the needs and deliver its estimated value.
2. Embrace agile, not chaos
Having an agile oriented problem-solving thinking is a great asset for any organization. Doing fast validation of ideas and adapt adequately to findings is an advantage. Being also lightweight and responsive to the changes required, prevents organizations from doing costly investments in solutions build on wrong assumptions.
However, being agile is not an excuse for chaos or lack of management. If the word is used to justify poor planning and adjusting it later, it becomes a direct reason for projects to not fit in their budgets, expand schedules indefinitely, and deliver less value than initially expected.
3. Challenge assumptions
Release as fast as possible and validate it as early as possible with the end user!
This is not something new, but it is still one of the most common pitfalls projects fall into. Building requirements on assumptions of what the end user might want is extremely prone to errors. Despite a common belief that you know what your target audience wants or expects, assumptions not validated with data are often proven wrong.
The reason for this happening is defined by the Nobel winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman in his book "Thinking Fast and Slow”, where he calls it the “cognitive bias”. Simply put, the inner view that a person has, is a product of fundamental attribution error, base-rate neglect, and other biases that are constantly leading us into resting our judgments and predictions on good or vivid memories instead of on data and statistics.
So, to avoid wasting budget and time into the wrong solutions: involve the end user, whether this is your customer or internal personnel. Create fast prototypes and validate the ideas as early as possible, to be able to adjust on time, reduce the waste and deliver the solution that brings the most value.
4. Focus on communication
The planned strategic development and the need for changes should be well justified and explained by the management. The motivation and vision for success must come down from the top and it will ensure the organization understands the “why”. Bringing all the stake holders onboard by ensuring the vision is there, will help give focus and ensure the collaboration needed for successful execution of large-scale projects.
Selling the project internally will ensure the organization understands the value and reason they should vest in it. Often, we have observed subpar results due to people not understating the reason of why they should do what they have been assigned to do, which greatly reduces the results.
Communication is essential, when you should ensure the collaboration between multiple departments, that have different goals, targets, budgets, staffing problems, and are situated in different countries. Especially so, when working in different time zones and there are own cultural differences dictated by the market or specific businesses.
Communicating and gathering the specifics for the requirements is essential. Making sure everyone understands the road map, dependencies, and expectations, will help to mitigate the risk of failing timetables and need for extra budget due to not well met ends in parallel tracks.
5. Ensure you have the right team
Success of the project heavily depends on the team executing it. No news there, but often, we have observed the wrong people being assigned to key roles can be directly linked to the failure of projects.
Having someone idle is not a good reason to be given a role in a new project alone. This short-term cost saving will result in much bigger cost waste in the long run. Specific roles require specific skills, and you cannot force or expect a person to perform well if they lack experience or even knowledge in the domain their new role requires.
So, ensure you have the right people in the team. Find the right experts that are most likely to succeed, whether they are internal or external, and watch the project bringing the success you have planned for.
Hristian Dimov, Senior Solutions Architect at Siili