Case Studies

I’m sure you’ll appreciate these case studies are kept somewhat vague in certain selective areas to maintain confidentiality for the organisations, companies and individuals involved.

That said, the content is valid and accurate, I have provided as much detail as possible to portray the scenarios with no poetic license or economy employed with the truth.

Click here if you would like more specific information or to discuss these case studies in greater detail. Please do not hesitate to contact me, simply go to my Contact Us page and choose the most convenient method.

Case Study #1 2005 – 2007

Project Objective:

To migrate the entire retail network of a leading high street bank (in excess of 1,000 outlets) on to a new telephony solution, consolidating both the voice and the data traffic. The supplier projected savings of over £30 million in 5 years.

The Challenges:

They say never to burn your bridges - how true that is!
It’s a strange feeling to be “poacher turned gamekeeper”. To suddenly be the other side of the table, originally supplier then customer and to find out the supplier’s programme manager was in fact a colleague from a previous project!

I was the customer but I also knew the supplier’s strengths and weaknesses, the full portfolio - warts ‘n all! I always make a point of ensuring that I can go back and work with a company, team or individual again. That way I think you limit the chances of falling out with people.
I was comfortable with the savings figure as predicted; I had already represented the supplier delivering the same solution to another leading high street bank and knew this would be realistic.

I was engaged to work in a high-profile QA role, representing the company’s retail IT division and the business team. I was to liase with the external and internal suppliers to ensure the business requirements were fully understood and met within what was a potentially daunting technical environment.

My responsibilities focused on ‘policing’ the project management methodology and governance through all of the project’s phases from ‘Design’ to ‘Closure’. Above all though it was my responsibility to make sure the solution was successfully delivered to the business, it was what they actually wanted and would deliver the stated benefits.

The first challenge was to tackle the common perception amongst the suppliers that much of the pre-deployment work had already been done! There was a genuine feeling about the place that everything had been considered, including the needs of the customer and end users.

A subtle blend of tact and diplomacy was called for, often taking on extra workload myself in order to get a point over. Although it meant additional graft with even longer hours it was no more than many others were doing. It helped me to gain respect from the team, gradually building trust between us. I was able to prove I was not trying to score cheap points by highlighting areas for improvement and better ways of doing things. I was there to improve the project’s efficiency as a member of the team.

It took some time to convince key individuals that, despite the lack of time available, there was a need for more detailed planning, less assumptions to be made and a greater understanding of the impact to the customer and end user.

The internal technical supplier, responsible for delivery, were used to providing what they deemed as fit for purpose and sometimes not really listening to customer! This was due to a mixture of “knowing what was best” and to be fair not previously receiving an awful lot of co-operation from the business! We had to address this quickly and get people to think and work differently.

Without this additional effort we were likely to encounter resistance from the business, in particular the end-users, in the proposed approach -probably when least desired when the solution was being rolled out in anger with very little room for manoeuvre.

If we did not pay enough attention to the detail we were in danger of being open to misinterpretation, the customer having no choice but to accept what they were given or risk halting the deployment. The solution may have been ‘fit for purpose’ but not “true” quality, namely something a bit special!

The timescale of fifteen months was extremely tight and aggressive with virtually no room for slippage. If the deadline were not met the customer would not be able to achieve the projected group savings. The solution was fairly complex and there were specific parts of the design unique to the customer. All in all this was a tough nut to crack!

The areas that needed addressing were mainly (as usual) due to the lack of time given to prepare for the rollout. My first impressions and initial assessment was as follows:
• The internal technology group (leading supplier) had not had consistency with the personnel representing the business team
• Business requirements were not defined in sufficient detail
• Insufficient level of reporting to demonstrate the feel good factor of being in control
• Limited updates from technical teams to the business team
• The level and amount of documentation did not reflect the importance of the project
• Lack of understanding of the users’ needs particularly during deployment of the solution
• The platform experienced a significant delay due to issues with the existing live platform narrowing an already tight delivery window
• Risks were not fully identified or mitigated
• By and large a good “team” with some great individuals in key positions
• Although a stiff challenge there were enough positives in place to give the project a fighting chance

The Solution:

What had to be done? The project was far too big to be run generally on the informal lines it was originally. Overall stronger more defined governance was needed.

There was a need for a greater understanding of what the impact was going to be on the retail outlets with documentation to support this.

We needed a more formal emphasis on the risk, issue, assumption and dependency management and above all a marked improvement in the overall communications throughout the project teams.

All parties needed to know what success looked like and what was needed for the project to be accepted and achieve closure.

The Result:

All of the major points were addressed and tackled successfully. A greater understanding of the business was reflected in the approach to the deployment, the issues and risks were managed closely; quality documentation was produced and made available on the group’s intranet site.

Reporting and updates were improved, in particular with regards to the business team being kept in the picture at all times. The various project teams became one genuine project team with regular communication and information being shared between them.

Achievements included:
• Deployment completed within stated timescale (only one delay)
• Successful introduction of strict project governance, structure, documentation etc.
• Building of strong relationships between technology and business areas
• Strict monitoring and control undertaken but with sense of humour maintained throughout
• Genuine environment of openness and honesty
• Unique understanding of technical and business needs, individually and collectively
• Fault handling, problem solving MI for analysis produced
• Dependencies identified and monitored
• Identifying and agreeing success and acceptance criteria

Major business benefits introduced:
• Group wide savings in excess of £30 million over 5 years
• The new technology provided virtually limitless potential for improving business performance

Case Study #2 2004

Project Objective:

Part of a groundbreaking “Business Partnership” programme between a leading telecoms company and a high street bank. The supplier was delivering a managed service, including Voice over IP, converging data and voice traffic at twenty-three of the customer’s head office sites. The project was valued at £2.5 million; the VoIP solution would save the bank’s head office sites £5 million over five years.

The Challenges:

Unfortunately the project had gone off the rails and was in serious jeopardy of being another tragic statistic.

The proposed solution had passed the “Proof of Concept” and was deemed “fit for purpose”. Unfortunately there had been a significant number of delays that affected the deadlines and threatened the overall budget and consequently the bank’s savings.

The project was part of a major business initiative to introduce a new style of business partnership between two leading companies, one a telecoms company and the other a high street bank. It was high profile with the stock exchange keeping a close eye on progress. Failure was not an option!

The original programme manager I replaced had tried to run the project remotely. Unfortunately he had lost touch with both the customer and the various project teams involved.

There were a number of issues that needed tackling locally and not from a distance. The working relationships had broken down, primarily due to a lack of trust by the customer in what they were being told as reasons for all of the various delays and the overall management of the project.

The other main supplier, who was responsible for the cabling, had been left to do pretty much as they pleased. They had undergone a significant challenge to their resourcing levels; a victim of their own success, they were heavily involved in the development of the new Wembley stadium, itself suffering from its own challenges.

There wasn’t even a project manager assigned to the project for me to liase with! It took well over a week to get a project manager allocated to our project. For some time they had been operating an unchallenged ‘best efforts’ approach.

They had to back-fill the staff being used on the new Wembley project with sub-contractors. This brought further issues with the quality of their work, reliability and even in some the dress code and conduct when working on a customer site.

The work they were to undertake had not been properly documented as a formal Statement of Works. Nor had the work been checked thoroughly in the early days, consequently there were misinterpretations in the quality of the work, the equipment and materials used and configuration. This resulted in a number of revisits needed to the sites already cabled.

Our project team was pretty demoralised.
A number of delays meant there was no clear direction. Confidence in the solution had at one point been low and the relationship between the project teams had never recovered.

The Solution:

The project was displaying classic symptoms of a vessel in distress. The root cause centred on the old chestnut of poor communications and the customer had sent up the distress flare!

The working relationships, especially with the customer, had to be restored quickly. Genuine, open and honest communications through regular face-to-face meetings and formal reporting needed to be re-introduced, the trust re-built and quickly re-establish the customer’s confidence in us the leading supplier and business partner.

This would be best gathered from my counter-part on the customer’s project team by asking what had gone wrong and what did they want to see happening now. The “how” and “by when” was obviously down to me to identify but also running the proposed plan past the customer for comment (out of courtesy) to check time scales were agreeable.

The best way would be to identify a few “quick wins” that would demonstrate we were back in control, all activities identified with owners and deadlines and then reporting regularly on the progress.

A proactive approach was needed with the supplier seen to be driving the project’s direction without prompts from the customer. There would be a requirement for “live” coaching and mentoring of junior project managers reporting to me.

Equally as important would be the handling of future issues. Flagging them as soon as possible. Explaining the cause and the plan to resolve, by whom and by when.

There was a need for highlighting the positives and celebrating the successes.
Understandably the vast majority of the teams’ energy had been focused on the negatives. We had to redress the balance in favour of all the good news that was being generated.

All simple things really, just a matter of communicating clearly and appreciating our counter-parts also had to report to their superiors. If possible pre-empt the questions, make sure they have all the information they need.

The Result:

We quickly turned the project around by focusing on the human element. The customer was very supportive once we demonstrated we genuinely cared and that we were in control. Regular face-to-face meetings, plenty of updates with accurate reporting in an open and honest way saved the day.

We demonstrated a genuine empathy toward the customer’s project team, the constraints they were having to work with and pressures they too were under. This allowed us to work together in a constructive and productive environment.

Achievements included:
• Project brought quickly back on schedule for migration of head office sites including VoIP, cabling and configuration
• Business partnership programme deemed successful
• Re-built excellent working relationships with all parties, in particular with the customer, providing further business opportunities for the supplier
• Introduced pro-active management of activities supported by a comprehensive reporting model to verify project status
• Greatly improved moral of project team
• Subtle introduction of ‘best practise’ approach, raising standards and expectations relating to project methodology. Also significant for future projects

Major business benefits introduced:

• Projected savings for head office sites in excess of £5 million over 5 years
• As a result the business partnership programme generated further business for the supplier

Case Study #3 2003

Project Objective:

This project was closely linked to Case Study #2, part of a large programme of works forging a business partnership between a leading UK telecoms company and a high-street bank. My main objective was to deliver a complete cable, asset and inventory management system in 65 working days.

The Challenges:

The project was already in jeopardy. Previous “challenges” to the overall programme had caused a knock-on affect pushing the project’s start date back on a number of occasions. Unfortunately the end date didn’t budge! A major contractual milestone was in place with a penalty of £250,000 if the date and associated deliverables were not achieved.

Every data and head office site had to be audited, the information collated and loaded on to the relevant databases and used to bill the customer. This would provide a more efficient and effective billing system. It would also manage the customer’s cable, asset and inventory once it had all been base lined and placed under a formal and stringent change control process.

Unfortunately the records had not been kept up to date. It had proven difficult to maintain the records for the bank’s retail outlets during the transitional period. It had not been possible to impose a strict change control process.

Subsequent changes to a number of the outlets had cast a shadow of doubt over the accuracy of the current records suggesting virtually the whole estate would need re-auditing, a potentially expensive exercise and a cost the project could not absorb.

Because the project had suffered a number of setbacks it had lost momentum. The availability of appropriate resource was in doubt. Data previously gathered was out of date and a number of sites would need revisiting.

Certain elements of the solution had been developed in place and ready for “Beta” testing. Quite a lot of the activities had been completed but much of the work had been carried out in isolation. The various departments involved had been working in silos with very little liaison.

High-level requirements had been gathered but were now dated. As usual the devil’s in the detail and there was a serious risk of the requirements no longer accurately reflecting the customer’s needs and being misinterpreted.

I had to juggle and balance the outstanding activities with the resource available and still meet the deadline that could not be moved to accommodate the circumstances.

The Solution:

I had been brought in to the organisation on recommend with a reputation of being a trouble-shooter. Somebody who gets things done gets the wagons rolling quickly and efficiently with the least amount of fuss. I’ve also been described as a hard-hitter, a heavyweight who gets the job done properly.

I don’t really have a problem with these descriptions except the hard-hitter and heavyweight labels imply a bit of a hard-nosed tough nut. Although I admit I set and expect high standards I’ve never fallen out with anyone.

To bring this project back from the brink I would have to shape the deliverables so that they were fit for purpose but any bells and whistles would have to be applied later. We would have to go for the slimmer leaner version but without sacrificing the quality.

Because of the delays and lack of detailed documentation it was hard to tell the difference between the customer “clarifying” the original requirements and fresh additional requirements, namely scope creep! This would all have to be re-visited, defined, agreed, documented and signed-off.

To do this we would have to re-establish many of the communication lines and working relationships. Check the understanding and perception of key individuals on the project. Establish the actual situation, not just our understanding.

I had to quickly establish what the end result had to look like. What had actually been done and was it all still relevant? Then draw up a revised, workable, action plan. Re-document the requirements, project structure, roles & responsibilities with acceptance and success criteria all to be agreed with by the key stakeholders.

I liased closely with the various suppliers to determine the quickest and most cost effective way of collecting the data, loading both the billing and cable management. In some cases it meant going back to square one.

Thanks to some lateral thinking by a very sharp individual the retail network could be audited out of hours. He produced a network “sniffer” that trawled the retail outlets during the night and collected all of information and formatted it for us to upload to the appropriate database.

The Result:

Against all the odds we met the deadline. Despite a lot of the work falling over the Christmas period, our professionalism and commitment shone through. We met the deadline that was part of the major milestone and there was no penalty. The solution was in place and the estate under formal change control allowing efficient management of the customer’s assets and inventory. The customer experienced the benefits almost immediately.

The perceived technical issues were resolved as the drive to provide clearer communications throughout the project proved a great success. It served to provide a greater understanding for everyone. The pieces of the jigsaw fell into place, the customer’s confidence in the solution returned paving the way to expand the business partnership to the mutual benefit of both organisations.

Achievements included:
• Systems & processes actually delivered in 61 working days despite extremely tight timescales and resource constraints. Involved audit of over 640 retail outlets and 15 strategic head office sites.
• Developed systems & processes to be used by supplier as the standard model for delivering CA&I management to other key outsourcing customers.
• Passed two major contractual milestone assessments avoiding penalties totalling £300,000
• Major achievements acknowledged by the customer greatly enhancing future benefits from the business partnership
• Successful development & delivery of branch and head office network scans, providing critical data for population of CA&I databases allowing efficient and effective auditing, maintenance and technical support

Major business benefits introduced:

• Generated recurring revenue from CA&I of over £2.5 million per annum
• Blue-print developed enabling further opportunities with other blue chip clients
• Successful start to the business partnership. Strengthening reputation and creditability with the consumer and the financial market places. Recognised positive impact on share price.
• Fault resolution & speed of Voice & Data changes improved by 30%

Thank you for taking the time to read these case studies.

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if you would like more specific information or to discuss these case studies in greater detail. Please do not hesitate to contact me, simply go to my Contact Us page and choose the most convenient method.

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