Jun 28, 2008

Setting the Scene - Part 4 - Business Process

It can be quite amazing to see how many different ways people can think of do the same thing, we are, after all, a naturally creative species. This is truely evident in our new organization when we look at how things actually get done and the differences between the original organizations.

Business processes will always evolve over time and are impacted by many factors both internally and externally, such as:
  • Management Strategy (or lack thereof)
  • Management Reporting Requirements
  • External Report Requirements
  • Business Systems Utilised (or lack thereof)
  • Personal Innovation
  • Legislative Change
  • Technology Change
  • Business Growth

As we set out on our journey to provide a new information system platform, we find (as is often the case) that we first must address what the business does and how it does it. In many areas we find four ways of performing the same task.

In a perfect world, those of us who are custodians of the techology would be approached by the business with detailed plan, strategy, anaylsis and documentation on how they wish to proceed forward and we would say "Great, here's your system, have fun and let us know if you get stuck". In reality however, we find ourselves having to be catalyst for business process change before we can even start thinking about our system.

On a side note: We have actually been approached previously by a business unit who had their hearts set on a particual business system. When we started going down the project planning path and looked at the business case we were told "The system does everything that we want it to". Great! Couldn't be happier, until we asked "..so what is that exactly" and were told in all seriousness "Everything that it does". This logic will make you dizzy if you think about it too hard... But I digress.

Our destination information system has modules that cater for the majority of critical civic functions which means a wide and varied reach across the organization. Some business units are quite pro-active in their process change where as others may have other priorities or focus. This variation in attitude toward business processes forces our project to change from a straight data migration to a much larger business transformation project.

Project Impact:

Project Planning
Planning needs to expand overall scope incorporate products for business process transformation. These products dramatically increase the time required to complete the project as compared to a straight data migration project. It also increases the size of the project resource pool by now creating process workgroups.

Staff Morale
With this being a merger situation, there is resistance to change as many people fear they will lose the process that they have worked so hard to build and refine. The project needs to focus strongly on personal change management issues.

Setting the Scene - Part 3 - The System/s

Prior to the merger, we were four organizations with four individual business systems. We now need to be one unified organization with one unified business system. Sounds logical.

The business systems we are interested in for this project are the ones used to perform critical civic duties such as:
  • Manage property details
  • Collect taxes
  • Issue infringements
  • Manage permits
  • Take payments and issue receipts

Our cause is helped a little by the fact that City of Atlantis and New Coast County used the
same system. Green Fields County and Red Mount County also used the same system bringing the source data structures down to only two.

The other positive is that the system selected to be used by the new Atlantis Regional County
is the one that was used by the old City of Atlantis and New Coast County. So our destination system is the same as one of the sources.

One might think that this is starting to look reasonably straight forward. Once you look under the hood of each of the systems however, it is soon apparent that the configuration of the systems is different in a many, many ways. This is even true for the two source data sets using different instances same business system. The systems themselves have been configured and enhanced around the differing business processes used by the original organizations.

Not a problem, all data migrations have some element conversion involved otherwise your not
migrating, your just copying. All we need to know is what the data structure needs to look
like in the destination system and we're on our way...

"So, business, what do you want this new system to look like?"

... and the silence is deafening ...

Project Impacts:

Project Planning
The project now needs to drive the business through designing the new system, the project is no longer a straight data migration. The differing data sets may require consultant resources from the vendors to assist with getting it right.

(In many organizations, this may be handled as a separate project on which the data migration project depends. Our organization doesn't quite see it that way... Advantage is that this is now within the control of the project team. Disadvantage is that it has at least tripled the effort required for the project).

Setting the Scene - Part 2 - New Management

With the merger of the organizations comes the integration of staff into a new structure. Our merger was constrained by employment guarantees so that no-one lost their jobs as part of the process.

The entire management structure of the four previous organizations was thrown into the air and where it all landed is where it stayed. In areas where there was competition for roles (e.g. Senior Management), new roles were created for those who needed positions.

Another constraint on the merger was that no staff member would be made to relocate to another site or office. Given the wide geographic dispersal of the original organizations, the new management structure faced challenges of distance and fragmentation. In some business units of the organization, the manager has been appointed from one of the original organizations where the team that they now run did not exist or have an equivalent. That manager now has to run the team from an office 30 miles away which does help the process.

Project Impact:

Staff Morale
Staff morale in some areas is low due to issue surrounding the new management structure - more effort will be required to encourage active participation in the changes the project will bring.

Communication Barriers
In some business units the psychical distance between staff has been turned into a communication barrier - a heavy focus needs to be placed on a formal Project Communication Plan to bridge the gaps

Management Ideologies
With an expansion of the management group (approx 50 managers) as a result of the merger, there are now great variations in management styles, personalities and agendas - the Project Manager needs to invest a large amount of time in a diplomatic capacity to negotiate agreements between units regarding business activities

Decision Making
The size and fragmentation of the management group adds time onto the decision making process - project time lines need to allow for this during planning

Jun 27, 2008

Setting the Scene - Part 1 - The Organization/s

Our project takes place in the local government arena where grassroots meets politial agenda. The organization as recently undergone a massive overhaul ordered and legislated by the state government. We used to be four separate but neighbouring entities, now we are one giant and widely dispersed organization.

Our previous organizations:

City of Atlantis (Administration centre - Atlantis City) - Main economic and population centre of the region but little available land for development. Surrounded on all sides by other counties.

New Coast County (Administration centre - Oceanview) - Smaller coastal population centres around 24 miles from Atlantis with enourmous amounts of available development land

Green Fields County (Administration centre - Westville) - Outlying rural area with townships and widely dispersed population

Red Mount County (Administration centre - Red Mount) - Smallest of all counties with little infrastructure

Our new organization has been named Atlantis Regional County by the state government and is centred in Atlantis City. It includes all area, infrastructure, population, assets and staff from the four previous areas.

The merger itself occured in the recent past and now it is time to make it all work properly for our residents (... because being a local government organization, getting it to all to work before the merger was far too much to ask...)

Jun 25, 2008

The scope and context of "Managing a Data Migration Project"

Welcome to the inaugural post...! Before we get into too much detail, I would like to explain our limitations in the blog.

This blog is "based on true events" so all events reported are real. Names, identities, titles and place names have been changed to hide the guilty and protect the Project Team.

Any resemblance to any person or organization (living or dead) is coincidental.

That being said, we aim to bring your the inside action on what is shaping up to be a slow paced behemoth of a project.

It is our intention to focus on the technology, project management and people aspects of getting this off the ground and hopefully provoke thought and discussion in like minded individuals.