August 21, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Success Story – Tension between Business and IT

Project Success StoryThis is the story about a project manager, Gren Gale, who was working for a large insurance company in the UK who wanted to update their CRM system to provide a much smoother experience for call centre operators and allow better integration of customer information between call centre and back office.

Politics

While the business area was very anxious to get on with the change, there was friction between business change and IT over the choice of system and the degree of involvement of IT in the implementation.  This particular area of business change had suffered from previous poor experience with the IT department and wanted to bypass them.  With IT having strict rules for the compliance of any new system to its technology standards, there were political issues to handle as well as a complex implementation to manage.

Outsource

Tension between IT and BusinessA tender was issued by IT to six vendors, using requirements put together by business change.  As seemed almost inevitable in the situation, business change preferred the system that was the least compliant with IT standards, while IT preferred another system.

Negotiations between the IT project manager and IT’s preferred vendor resulted in a big reduction in up-front costs by the vendor who were keen to get a foothold in the Insurance sector.  Despite luke-warm support from business change, the recommendation to go with this vendor was presented to the director of the business area and approved.

This left IT satisfied, but business change feeling not entirely happy about the choice.

Analysis and Design

Meetings were arranged to agree a final design between the business area and the vendor.

These went well, but hit a couple of issues:

  • As often happens between analysis and design, estimated costs exceeded the original quote, however a compromise was reached with the vendor over what was to be included and what not and estimates were kept within the original budget.
  • It turned out that the business change director had shown a mocked-up demo of the proposed new CRM system to the Chief Executive some time before a system had been selected. This demo had shown web browser style screens, whereas the selected system had panel style screens. The business change director was adamant that he could not accept anything but web browser style screens.  This led to something of a crisis, however we were fortunate that the supplier was happy to make the change without charging for it as they felt it would enhance their product.

Implementation

Work had to be coordinated between vendor and the IT department, with changes made to in-house systems to allow them to interface with the CRM system as well as tailoring effort carried out by the vendor.  Thankfully very few glitches were encountered and the system went in on time and budget.

Launch

The launch went with much razzmatazz with the business change team grabbing most of the glory, however the success of the project had the effect of drawing business change and IT much closer together, with the previous attitude of mistrust dispelled.

Lessons Learned

While there appeared to have been a very thorough job done to capture requirements, the one requirement that almost wrecked the whole project didn’t come to light until very late on.  In truth we were lucky to get away with this, so make sure you’ve tracked down every requirement before you agree costs.

Politics are more often a symptom of worry and mistrust.  The best way to overcome this is to show you can deliver.  By the end of this project the business change team were singing the praises of IT, because we had managed the project well and delivered.

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Gren Gale is a project management consultant and owner of PM Results.  He has over 20 years’ experience in project management and has worked in Financial Services and IT Services.  He is author of Project Management for SMEs and can be contacted on gren.gale@pmresults.co.uk or +44 (0) 7788 925027