by Anthony Welterveden
Orbium’s highly disciplined approach to IT implementation projects means that over 90 per cent go live on time. Our track record is strong. However, in some cases, delays may occur due to justified business and regulatory initiated changes. Here’s how it is done.
One-in-three large software projects is delivered late, according to research by McKinsey , a rate it says is consistent across all industries. Delays can be catastrophic for a bank. When a major IT project fails to go live on time, it triggers an avalanche of further delays that may derail the project for three months or longer. Sometimes, overruns can lead to projects being abandoned altogether.
In general, the go-live should be at quarter-end or year-end in-line with a financial end of period. As such, there are very few windows each year which means missing an appointed slot is not an option. At Orbium, we understand this and work hard to meet our deadlines. In fact, 90 per cent of our projects go live on time – a huge difference compared with McKinsey’s estimated failure rate.
Orbium’s size is part of the secret; small enough to have the speed and grace to be agile, big enough to have all the necessary experience. Our projects meet deadlines because they are carefully and accurately scoped; needs, outcomes and risks are communicated clearly; and progress is monitored throughout. It is discipline and experience. Our strong methods, concepts and accelerators ensure that our success rate far exceeds the industry average. With each project experience we are committed to the idea of constantly improving our processes.
Orbium is also different in that we recommend two discrete and critical phases before starting the main implementation project: pre-scoping and analysis & design – often standalone phases that can last between three to six months. We do this because we believe these are the phases at which a project is set up for success – or failure.
It is at this point that consultants really research the business requirements that will dictate the scope and size of the project and therefore how long it will take. Insufficient preparation is an all-too-common mistake. It leads to mistaken assumptions and unnecessary risk at later stages. By having separate pre-scoping and analysis & design (A&D) phases, our consultants focus on requirements capture and achieving maximum business value while remaining within a defined timeline.
It is during the pre-scoping and analysis & design stages that all parties come together as a joint team and check they are using the same set of project rules, language and terminology. Workshops bring mutual benefits: they help consultants understand the business requirements and they familiarise bank staff with the language of change. Miscommunication can lead to mismatched expectations, a failure to grasp project requirements and ultimately, a badly designed project.
Communicating clearly and often during the A&D phase allows all involved to build a robust masterplan with a realistic timeline. It includes identifying risks, drawing up a clear plan and agreeing on its implementation, testing and launch. Monitoring those timelines at every stage is vital for the governance of the project and keeps the master plan on track.
Weekly monitoring is considered the minimum – and as soon as a yellow flag is raised, the team begins mitigation and may even call in extra resources if needed. This may mean additional hours from the existing team or adding more experienced members from the consultancy, the vendor or even key stakeholders within the bank. Experience has shown that it’s always better to spend more on extra resources than to risk missing the launch date.
Part of successful monitoring is continuous testing. By delivering the project in phases and testing during development, problems can be spotted, assessed and resolved quickly – before they become bigger headaches. It is all about managing risk and incorporating necessary change into the right part of the master plan at the right time. In this way, disruption can be contained.
Delivering the business functionality and testing the target solution over planned phases instils business confidence, keeping the all-important momentum going forward.
There is always a trade-off between time, resources and risk. Our track record shows that we understand their interplay – and time and again get it right. Of course, some projects will grow beyond their original scope and occasionally there are events that are beyond anyone’s control. But even taking into account project scope, creep and external factors, there is no reason why nine out of 10 large IT projects shouldn’t hit their deadlines.