Dear Ethix – Issue 28

Implementing Large Scale Systems

Good discussion on the issues with large-scale systems (Technology Watch, Jan-Feb 2002). I think you very elegantly (and nicely) stated these. I would like to add some comments.

Immune systems in companies are very interesting. Many times a large-scale system is the only horizontal integration that exists within a large company. This allows many different people to say NO, and removes the requirements of managers and executives to step up, take a risk and be a strong proponent/evangelist of a new system effort.

Often, there is not a STRONG & VISIBLE Executive support, and this is generally the only way I can see to deal with the corporate immune system. Several large companies have people/business units who are not directly impacted by the project or who are not direct stake holders, but they may see this new system as a competitor and begin the process of blocking the changes. If the executive support is weak and indecisive, this will kill the project.

Shared Ownership between the IS group and the business owners is critical. So is the teaming aspect. I have been involved with systems projects that have shared ownership but there is no teaming. Thus, one of the owners is typically directing the other owner with no discussion on what is truly best for “both legs of the triangle”.

IT/IS skills levels for the new systems are also critical. Education is usually thrown into the plan for the system as an afterthought, but is one of the most critical aspects of successfully implementing a new system. You can have the best new processes, the best new system with great productivity enhancements and performance. Unless the users know how to utilize this functionality and enhancements, your project will be a bust. I have found that you need to plan your education tasks and budgets and double or triple them to really get the users using it correctly.

Most successful projects involve the users up front. Not just for requirements gathering but for managing their expectations on functionality (usually partial functionality) and providing feedback and recommendations on the education process and method. User buy-in in any way, shape or form will increase your chances of success significantly.

With extended implementation schedules (1-2 yrs) it is often difficult to keep enthusiasm going, stop scope creep and schedule slip. Simplicity in the plan for the system is critical too. Thank you for getting me on my soap box again. It is amazing how when I start thinking about what went right and what went wrong in past systems implementations, it was almost all about the people (all of us).

Jody Albright
Bellevue WA

I enjoyed your excellent article concerning the reasons for large-scale system failures in the January/February issue of Ethix. I am interested in using your article in a training session for our software development group. I am interested in distributing a copy to each of our 20 developers on a one-time basis.

I am keenly aware of respecting your intellectual property as I am an adjunct instructor at a local university; therefore, I am asking your permission.

I realized that my renewal form is sitting here in my invoice stack, I will send it this week. I find your work at IBTE so important and appreciate the insight and awareness you bring forth. Also, thought you would like to know about effective technology for families to protect from porn usage:

Kathryn Lineham
Seattle, WA

A “Shoe Leather” Column?

Ethix is one of the few publications that I read “cover to cover.”  I just finished my first reading of the latest issue—I have yet to finish the “digestive process”.

In the process, an idea popped into my mind. Two books you reviewed months ago (The Tipping Point and Good to Great) have stirred my thinking and actually caused us to make some changes in how we operate our consulting business and what counsel we give to our clients. Seems to me it might be time for a “Shoe Leather” column (sounds pretty low tech in 2003) describing changes your readers have incorporated in their business practices because of what they have gleaned from Ethix. I think some folks would respond to a request from readers for some application examples—and others might move to a higher level by hearing from those who put “shoe leather” to theory and thought.

Keep at the good work you are doing.

Bob Catherman
President, Roberts Group Consulting,Inc.
Bellevue, WA

Editor’s Note: Good idea. At the end of April we are going through a strategic planning session with our Board, and will be putting lots of new ideas on the table. We welcome this one and any others our readers want to share.