Technical Project Management, Development and Implementation
Developing and implementing modern systems often involves many roles, and due to the diversification of I.T. in general, it's not uncommon for a single system to be composed of products from several suppliers, each with their own set of requirements and goals.
We've managed numerous I.T. projects over the years, both large and small alike - with success being the result in every case; we've never been involved in a failed project to date. Indeed, we're often "parachuted" in to failing projects to turn them around, the result being that the end users resume dialogue with the suppliers and a once-failing project is transformed into a success.
Although technical issues can cause delays in system implementations, in our experience, the most usual cause is human. Common problems include:
- Software developers and product specialists that speak in mainly technical terms, who struggle to communicate their concerns and ideas clearly.
- Traditional managers, whilst well-versed in "best practice", often lack the in-depth technical skills and knowledge to realise the significant impact that a seemingly minor technical glitch can have on the rest of the project. This is often compounded when multiple I.T. solutions from disparate suppliers are being integrated to form the final system, particularly when apparently small "cracks" between the systems turn out to be much larger than previously anticipated.
- Confused or misguided terminology - it's surprisingly common to see meetings proceed, with suppliers, managers and users alike, nodding in agreement when discussing terms common to everyone...only to discover much later that everyone present had a slightly different version of what those terms meant.
- Lack of operational knowledge - another common problem, often, I.T. departments are tasked with specifying systems based upon a limited knowledge of how the affected business unit runs day-to-day. When the system delivered doesn't really work in the "real world" due to undocumented procedures or a lack of flexibility, chaos can ensue.
- Resistance to change - some users can be wary of change, sometimes due to a lack of willingness to adapt, but in many cases, there are sound reasons for this as well. We've seen examples where replacement systems lacked key functionality that end users required, and where the new systems delivered short on performance compared to the old.
- Third-party suppliers refusing to accept ownership of problems - we've all seen examples of supplier "tennis" where numerous suppliers involved in a solution pass the problem across to each other in turn, rather than just dealing with the issue at hand and delivering what's best for the customer.
We've dealt with and addressed all of the above issues across a variety of business types and technologies.
Why should you hire us to manage or implement your next project?
Pragmatic Approach - Although modern technology provides unprecedented opportunity for automation, we strive to deliver what's best for the client rather than trying to reach a technical solution for every given problem, and aim for simplicity over technical perfection. For example, having someone perform a quick manual check every week might be significantly cheaper and easier to implement than designing a whole new application subsystem. Sometimes, having the software solve 95% of the problem is more than sufficient.
Technical Excellence - We have over 20 years' experience in software development and problem resolution using a variety of technologies and platforms. We're excellent at "rooting out" problems in the early stages of a project, and if difficulties do arise later on that cannot be fixed directly, we're likely to either work around them, or recommend alternatives. (Please see our Problem Solving page for more details).
Insight - We strive to deliver what the client wants, which is not always initially what they asked for. Being able to read between the lines and determine what is actually required is our speciality. Of course, if you really do want us to do precisely as instructed without question, we're more than happy to do this.
Soft Skills - Managing, troubleshooting and implementing solutions requires interaction with key members of staff from a wide variety of disciplines. We're used to dealing with end-users, third-party suppliers, and technical staff alike and have excellent communication skills, which means that we can explain problems to all concerned in a straightforward, easy to understand fashion. Having everyone understand common points and being sensitive to everyone's point-of-view is often half the battle in a complex project.
Politically Aware - We're often hired by third party software houses to help diagnose problems on-site and to implement existing I.T. solutions. Sometimes, we're placed in difficult situations on-site where there is conflict between the user and the software supplier that we're working on behalf of. Rest assured, whenever we represent your company, we'll always act in your best interest and present you in the best possible light. We adopt a positive approach and try to arrive at constructive solutions to problems rather than just directing blame.
PRINCE2® Registered Practitioner
Nick Mason passed his PRINCE2 Practitioner exam in July 2013 - we're happy to adopt this popular project management methodology if desired.
A software house hired us to visit one of their customer sites in order to upgrade a complex, multi-tier piece of enterprise software and to deliver the appropriate training, covering the new features that had been added. We were also informed that there were some "issues" to be resolved, which could be discussed during the training sessions.
Having looked into the situation further, it soon became apparent that there were much larger problems at hand. Neither customer nor supplier knew where each other was up to with the project - various emails had been exchanged, but no one individual had an overall "global" view of the project's state nor its outstanding issues. Not surprisingly, both customer and supplier were equally frustrated, as their respective emails to each other were only answered by similarly vague responses, as both parties were still in the dark. Furthermore, there were a number of large-scale third-party systems involved, and outstanding technical issues between these only added to the complications, as nobody was certain where the underlying problems were located.
Although initially hired just to deliver the training and implementation, we took over managing the project itself with the customer's agreement - to resolve the situation, we:
- Absorbed the existing "knowledge" about the project so far - a long series of email threads from multiple staff, along with a series of half-completed documents.
- Arrived at a definitive list of outstanding issues, detailing the state of each problem at hand, and determined which of the various third parties involved was responsible for further investigation.
- Identified some operational scenarios that had been completely overlooked - fortunately, we noticed these before the product was used "out in the field" and found resolutions as appropriate.
- Arranged and chaired meetings with the customer and their third-party suppliers to bottom out the remaining issues - it's surprising how much progress can be made with the right people in the right place at the right time.
- Involved the operational users as well - their insights provided vital input to the overall solution.
Once the test system was working to the satisfaction of everyone involved, we put the system, live. Despite this being a complex project with multiple users located in geographically disparate locations throughout the UK, the only point notable about the go-live was the lack of issues raised. The go-live was a complete success and we even received two complimentary emails from the customer thanking us for our involvement.
Whether you're embarking on developing your next major software product, need to integrate third-party systems into your existing solution, or would like a bespoke software product to be developed, consider using Arcamex to manage your next project.