Business Integration and Evaluation, Research Paper Example

Abstract

Facilitating change in an organization can be a daunting task.  The goal of developing an information technology solution to facilitate that change can be a fine balance between technology and business process changes.  The goal of the organization is to fully understand their goals and objectives and what they want to achieve by implementing a new IT solution.  The goals of the organization are to align their organizational structure into a flat structure that allows centralized command and decentralized execution allowing decisions and solutions to be made at the lowest possible level.  This allows a reduction in bureaucracy and drives ownership of solutions to those that are heavily engaged and closest to the issues.  Other variables that must be addressed include understanding the key stakeholders in driving the change and understanding their needs to conduct business in a more effective manner.  The alignment of the strategy of the organization with the deliverables of the portfolio, program and project managers will ensure that the direction the company is intending to go is facilitated by the efforts of the leadership and managers of the organization.

Planning

The project’s scope is defined by the Project Management Book of Knowledge 2008 (PMBOK) as “The work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service or result with the specified features and functions”.  So in order to have a project plan it is first necessary to understand what project is being undertaken and what it will take the provide the desired results necessary to accomplish those project objectives.  The process of defining the scope of the project would, in reality, require the input of the subject matter experts to conduct a workout session to determine initially how the large project could be divided and implemented based upon how the legacy operations are operated and their unique dependencies and requirements.  In the current project development there was a distinguished need to integrate and build a complete wing-to-wing information system that would become a fully integrated tool for the business to utilize throughout the entire product lifecycle.  The business leaders determined that there was a need for a better and more efficient way of conducting current processes.

Success is dependent on multiple factors but it is imperative to understand what the scope of the project is prior to undertaking the initiative.  The scope sets the stage that the entire project will be played upon.  Making a change to the scope of the project impacts every aspect and effort that has been accomplished and that will be accomplished in the project.  Planning the scope to ensure that the right amount of scope is included in the project to ensure the business is receiving not only what they need to business but also to provide a benefit in either cost savings, productivity or some other aspect the business deems worthy of allocating resources to.  Success in the project is dependent on management the scope of the project to ensure what leadership signs off on in the beginning is the orders that the project team will execute to.  This provides a clear line of sight that is achievable, measurable, reasonable and time constrained (Sarin, Sego, Kohli, and Challagalla, 2010). The planning phase ends with the completion of the outline of the project including the charter, project plan, deliverables and a view into the prioritization and budget of the project.

When building out a program schedule it is important to understand the scope of the program.  The scope of the project has defined what we expect to deliver at the different tollgates defined by time parameters. This scope is the foundation of the entire project.  Managing that scope and ensuring that it maintains its integrity throughout the project will not only ease the troubles faced by the project manager but will also provide a step toward a successful project. The larger the project, the more imperative it is to clearly define the scope of the project (Kanaracus 2012).  The scope of changing an entire manufacturing plant over from one group of disparate systems to another is a daunting task.  The scope of this project is to take the core business and information technology activities out of the legacy systems and move them to a new strategic solution.

The primary purpose for implementing a new information system project is to meet the customer expectations regarding the scope and requirements of the project while also completing the project within the schedule allotted and the budgetary constraints outlined in the cost estimates (Cate, Harris, Shugars, Westling, 1998).  This is accomplished by following effective and efficient business practices to not only ensure best practices are being followed but provide an environment that is best suited for project success.  The SDLC methodology provides a very deliberate process built around the core functionalities outlined in information system development.  The benefit of utilizing the SDLC methodology revolves around providing a structured environment to define the project, gather requirements, analyze and design the solution, build, implement, train and sustain the system.  Each phase incorporates a level of management and control to ensure quality and the successful development and implementation of the requirements for the project.

Implementation

The main task of designing a technology leader implementing change within his or her organization is to drive the organizational change.  This is accomplished by garnering buy in from the key stakeholders in the organization and by involving these stakeholders in the implementation process.  The more involved key members of the organization are and the more benefit they can visualize and experience the better the chance for adoption of the change.  After the planning phase of the project there must be a final prioritization of the efforts.  Once the requirements are established and the project’s scope and charter are finalized the project team will finally have a vision into what the final output from their efforts will look like.  With that vision the organization of tasks and procedures can be prioritized to meet the scope, budget and schedule of the project.  The prioritization of the tasks and the assignment of resources must also have a concerted effort toward the goals and objectives of the organization.  Alignment of goals and objectives is a critical action within the organization to ensure the limited resources of people, funding and time are properly allocated throughout the organization.

This alignment includes providing a roadmap, which is a tool for visual awareness and schedule clarity, to show how which areas will be addressed, define deliverable due dates, assign team leads and other key members.  The prioritization does not stop at the project and program level.  This is crucially important when it comes to implementing new software solutions enterprise wide.  In most instances the business is not going to shut down their operations so that an IT solution can be implemented.  The tasks must also have a timing element to align the operational aspects of the organization to the project implementation schedule.

Through traditional methods or the waterfall project management methodology the business would be handed a newly implemented solution which was fully vetted and enhanced based upon the finalized requirements of the key stakeholders, end users and other members impacted by the solution.  From the time the project started to the project’s completion there could potentially be multiple changes in scope, requirements or other needs based upon the business’s stance or circumstance.  During implementation the key is to maintain open lines of communication both horizontally and vertically throughout the organization.  There will need to be multiple discussions and planning sessions between the project managers, program managers and the portfolio managers to set priority based on the needs of the business, resource constraints and maturity of the implementation.  This includes the prioritization of resources to maintain legacy systems and the retirement of those systems when the new system functionality is ready and present to replace the legacy’s abilities.

Evaluation

Evaluation of a project allows for the people involved in the effort to understand where they are in relation to a definable goal or metric.  The purpose of the evaluation is to understand where the project or effort stands so that the leadership, project team or other members of the organization can make informed decisions on what decisions or actions they need to take in order to achieve their objectives (Smith 2011).

There are multiple tactics for evaluation.  This includes monitoring, auditing and assessments.  Monitoring is viewing inputs and matching the outputs.  In its simplest terms it is viewing what is inputted into the process and matching the outputs that come out of the process.  This allows for the adjustment of variables to match the desired inputs to the desired outputs.  Auditing is just like taking an inventory of something.  An audit is a static measurement to understand what is actually available at a specific point in time.  This is accomplished when a specific variable needs to be understood such as how much of a specific talent set does the project team have or if the implementation is compliant with a defined set of criteria.  The later type of evaluation is the assessment.  The assessment is used when multiple options need to be evaluated and each option is evaluated for the best fit for the requirement.

Evaluation leads itself to the monitoring and controlling portion of project management.  This in itself is a way to monitor by measuring quantitative or qualitative inputs to desired outputs (Moore, 2008).  This information provides the basis for monitoring key aspects of the project and then allowing the project manager the ability to take action or control the effort to better align the resources to the intended deliverables.

Monitoring and Controlling

The monitoring and controlling process includes the areas of tracking, reviewing and governing the achievements, roadblocks, progressions and overall performance of the project.  This is also the area within project management where changes to scope, project schedule and cost are governed and documented.  Changes within a project can cause unnecessary delays and potentially lead to a failed project if not properly controlled.  The tools and techniques associated with monitoring and controlling provide the project manager and the project team the appropriate tools to understand the overall changes to the project and provides the ability to building risk mitigation actions to alleviate potential issues that could derail the project.

Managing and controlling a program includes the same risk factors as those associated to a project but on an exponential basis.  Implementing an information technology solution enterprise wide would impact a large scale of users that would have a direct impact on business operations (DeLone, McLean, and Petter, 2011).  The key aspect of implementing a technological solution is that if the benefits are experienced by everyone in the company the risks for implementation would also have the potential for negative ramifications enterprise wide as well.  All of the risks and changes that occur in a project are then associated to the program.  In the case of updating and integrating the Information Technology systems of the corporation there are conflicts between development of new projects and their prioritization as well as conflicting interests of legacy systems and their upkeep, maintenance and business requirements to run the operations.  Building a consolidated, integrated and ultimately different information technology system requires prioritization, resource allocation, project/program/portfolio management and leadership support.  This is where key leadership influence is crucial to the success of the project.

The building of the requirements by leadership during the planning phase blends over to the implementation phase which was discussed earlier.  The work that was prioritized for implementation must be monitored and controlled to ensure that the project is on track and within the budget allotted.  Monitoring and controlling the schedule is one aspect of leading a project or program but there are also other tools that for the teams to incorporate to ensure that the technological advancements, enhancements and increased capabilities hit their intended target at project completion.

A tool that facilitates the efforts to monitor and control the largest areas for potential risk to cost and schedule of a project is the Earned Value Management (EVM) tool.  This tool provides the monitoring and controlling aspects of managing a project or program but also provides a level of accountability for the project and program managers (Fleming & Koffleman 2010).  The EVM tool allows the measurement of the three project constraints of scope, schedule and cost while analyzing the performance of the triple constraints against what is being accomplished on the project.  In a complex environment such as implementing new software solution across an entire business the utilization of agile methodologies has been decided.  With agile there are techniques used to provide EVM awareness and monitoring for such an implementation.  The use of trending planned value (PV), or the value of work planned to be completed, versus earned value (EV), value actually accomplished in the project, allows insight into the actual work being performed against the expected results.  This is also useful when visually illustrating the progress through burn down charts based on sprints, deliverable milestones and costs.

Synopsis

Throughout the implementation of an information technology solution there are key aspects of the project or program that must be taken into consideration to ensure successful completion of the efforts.  The first is that there must be an integrated strategy between the project teams, leadership and the organization.  Alignment of the goals and objectives among all levels of the organization ensures that the efforts throughout the organization are working in the same strategic direction and are not conflicting in nature.  Assessments are crucial to understand where an organization stands in their effort to meet those aligned goals and objectives. In order to meet specific metrics it is imperative to understand if the unit being measured is making progress or needs to adjust their tactics to meet the desired end state.  Leadership plays an important role in establishing the direction of the company, leading individual efforts and building the support needed for implementations to be successful.  Their integrated involvement will provide the foundation for a successful project.  Planning, implementation, monitoring and controlling of an information system project or program are integral aspects of the implementation’s lifecycle.

References

Cate, A., Harris, J., Shugars, J., Westling, H. (1998). Technology procurement as a market transformation tool. US Department of Energy.

DeLone, W., McLean, E., and Petter, S. (2011). The past, present, and future of “is success”. Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Special Issue. 13, 341-362.

Fleming, Q. W., & Koffleman, J. M. (2010). Earned value project management. Project Management Institute.

Kanaracus, C. (2012). Survey finds erp software project overruns ‘distressingly common’. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/710777/Survey_Finds_ERP_Software_Project_Overruns_39_distressingly_Common_39_?taxonomyId=3009

Moore, D. (2008). Technology enhanced distributive formative evaluation. Ohio University. International Jl. on E-Learning, 7(2), 283-292.

Sarin, S., Sego, T., Kohli, A., and Challagalla, G., (2010) Characteristics that enhance training effectiveness in implementing technological change in sales strategy: a field-based exploratory study. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management.

Smith, S. (2011). Don’t fear it assessment. University Business.