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Why IT Projects Fail: A Roadmap for Prevention

Why IT Projects Fail: A Roadmap for Prevention

Many IT project failures have hit the headlines in recent years. I’d need more than one hand to count Australia’s monolithic IT projects that have gained public attention – and no…

Many IT project failures have hit the headlines in recent years. I’d need more than one hand to count Australia’s monolithic IT projects that have gained public attention – and notoriety.

The global numbers are no better. According to the US-based Project Management Institute, the failure rate stands at 17%, meaning that one in seven projects fails. Another report put project success rate at around 30%. That leaves a lot of middle ground for projects that are somewhere in-between.

There has been much navel-gazing about why this is so. An analysis of Britain's NHS project, which was claimed to be the world’s largest civil IT project stated:

“The system of systems that was to provide EHRs was initially designed by a large central team and intended as a complete “big-bang” replacement for the many and varied existing EHR systems.

 

It would have been far better to employ evolutionary acquisition, i.e. to specify, implement, deploy and evaluate a sequence of ever more complete IT systems, in a process that was controlled by the stakeholders who were most directly involved, rather than by some distant central bureaucracy.”

 

This gets to the guts of some of the gaping problems that software development projects often suffer. While there are many contributing factors, keeping users at arms length is a recipe for disaster. Without close collaboration, users are never going to adopt a new system. The other issue is trying to tackle everything at once. If there’s one hard lesson to learn, it’s that this inevitably results in requirements that are written so far out that they are obsolete by the time they get to production.

A better way to run IT projects

I’m a firm believer that how you run an IT project is just as important as what you’re aiming to achieve. There are five key pillars we’ve been using for years to achieve project success. These are:

1.      Spend time at the frontline

You can’t delight the end users of a new IT system without fully understanding the problems they face. This means spending time with them, in their work environment and gaining empathy and insight – before prescribing what the solution should be. Sounds simple but often people are fixated on a certain type of solution without conducting the necessary exploration.

We use a design thinking approach to gain user buy-in and fully define the problem. While a client typically has broad business goals that go beyond the operational, the reality is that these can’t be achieved unless are using the system and creating quality data.

 

2.      Allow for change

If there’s one constant in an IT project, it’s change. This is why we use an agile methodology, because it recognises that a software project will never be fully defined, and has the flexibility to accommodate change. Instead of addressing everything upfront, we prioritise. This means defining the highest value items, delivering a Minimum Viable Product and then making our way through a priority list. We do this using Sprints, typically short bursts of fortnightly production with regular client demos and feedback sessions factored in. This approach builds trust, transparency, and avoids the change request hell that typically follows a project with the all-at-once approach.

3.      Avoid the custom cost and resource drain

It used to be that you had to choose between custom and off-the-shelf software, weighing up the balance of cost vs fit-for-purpose. But there are better choices available now. A core technology platform brings with it a huge array of built-in functionality that avoids having to develop everything from scratch. Yet it also delivers the flexibility to create multiple line-of-business applications that can be fully customised – and quickly. Our technology of choice is Microsoft Dynamics 365 along with SharePoint.

4.      Minimise scope creep and pricing overruns

It’s easy to blow out a budget when you’re paying for development on a time basis (how long is a piece of string?). A better way to gain control is to pay via a fixed cost. We do this by turning requested features into a fully costed list, then allowing clients to prioritise and plan their spend. A word of warning though – many developers don’t have this capacity. We have honed our ability to price accurately through deep industry knowledge, years of experience, and use of a technology platform.

5.      Don’t forget support

As IT projects limp towards the finish line, the reality dawns: there is no finish line. There will always be further development, user support and maintenance. And worse news – if an IT project wasn’t done well to begin with, spiraling support costs can blow out the project even further. The antidote? A fixed price approach to support that brings predictability, and the flexibility to change to suit requirements.

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John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

Simient acquires Mr CRM

Simient acquires Mr CRM

Brisbane, AustraliaAugust 1, 2018 has announced the purchase of , a specialist services provider for Microsoft Dynamics 365, to boost its existing …

Brisbane, AustraliaAugust 1, 2018Simient has announced the purchase of Mr CRM, a specialist services provider for Microsoft Dynamics 365, to boost its existing footprint as a specialist CRM consultancy.

 

Currently, Simient uses the platform to create highly customised frontline solutions for health and corrections enterprise clients.

 

Mr CRM will allow Simient to provide solution offerings more suited to the SME market, including a Microsoft Dynamics 365 helpdesk.

 

“We are excited to deliver the considerable benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 to Australian businesses large and small,” said Simient CEO John Stevenson. “We have an expert team of developers, solution architects, support staff, and super users that can add on-call, enterprise-grade expertise to SMEs.

 

The original founder of Mr CRM, Alan Ball, is now Simient’s Darwin Practice Manager, and will assume responsibility for the Mr CRM brand.

 

“Our first task is establishing a Microsoft Dynamics 365 outsourced helpdesk service,” Alan said. “Both online and on-premise Dynamics CRM clients will gain access to deep knowledge at a fixed cost. This bypasses the need to hire and train specialist staff, cover for holidays or deal with dissatisfied users. Even the most customised of installations aren’t an issue as Simient has an enormous depth of experience in this area.”

John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

3 Lessons From Microsft Build 2018

3 Lessons From Microsft Build 2018

I recently attended the conference in Seattle, along with thousands of “the most innovative minds in tech” – or developers as they are commonly known.

As the p…

I recently attended the Microsoft Build conference in Seattle, along with thousands of “the most innovative minds in tech” – or developers as they are commonly known.

As the premiere tech event in the Microsoft world, there were 350 sessions and a multitude of product announcements. While there are many general recaps of the conference, I am going to focus here on what is important to Simient’s client base: government and health agencies who need rapid, usable frontline solutions built on pervasive technology.

Lesson #1: The new Business Application Platform is win-win

The easiest way to explain this is that Microsoft is separating out the platform from its CRM specific applications. Historically, we have used Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM to create “xRM” solutions – which means “anything” relationship management (not just Customer). At Simient we’ve created everything from patient management and clinical information systems for healthcare clients to teacher registration management systems for education.

But to do this, we had to strip out all the CRM functionality (like leads and opportunities) first, which wasn’t always easy or 100% possible.

Now, Microsoft is separating out the underlying platform, which is called the Common Data Model and providing that for partners and clients to build on top of using PowerApps. For custom developers like us, it’s a huge win. First, customers can buy the platform only, at a much reduced price (less than 50% of full CRM licences) which makes creating a line of business application far more affordable. Second, we don’t have to spend any time hiding or stripping out functionality which is another time and cost win. Third, we can simply start with the basic common data model, then either buy or build the solution components we need. Again, much more efficient – in both time and cost.

Dynamics 365 was already a good solution to create custom frontline applications, but this new development makes it an extremely compelling proposition. Faster, easier, cheaper: these are attributes the market will embrace.

Lesson #2: Apps are now easier

It has been challenging to create apps quickly for a Microsoft Dynamics or SharePoint solution. It usually resulted in a user having to log into Dynamics or SharePoint first, navigate through to the desired area, then use it…not the ideal user experience. Alternatively a completely separate application was coded from scratch

But now, PowerApps is perfect for creating standalone apps for high use processes, such as leave forms or incident reports. An app can be quickly designed in PowerApps, which connects to the Common Data Model or SharePoint for its data. Business process flows can also be easily added using the new workflow product “Flow”. Flow comes with over 220 connectors to external data sources (such as Office, Twitter, Trello, ServiceNow) with more being added daily..

In short, creating business apps has never been easier and this will provide clients with the flexibility to make data capture and integrating business processes much more accessible.

Lesson #3: Microsoft is opening up the covers

Microsoft’s vision is to provide technologies that empower the world to do more. From a technical point of view, this means they are embracing open source thinking – in a big way. Instead of the traditional approach of closing off their technology, they are using and integrating with popular open source solutions and are the single largest contributor to the open source repository, GitHub.

Microsoft are also now building and exposing APIs for their platforms and systems that anyone can call, not just themselves. For example, Microsoft Graph lets you securely connect to Office 365, Windows and the Enterprise , to enable scenarios such as onboarding users and finding meeting times, to existing line of business applications. This means you can now build systems with more automation, and expose that information in your own systems.

Embracing open source thinking is much more than just lip service: it’s moving at rapid speed, much to the delight of the development community.

 

And some final notes

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Some final notes about the conference:

  • It’s a huge conference, held over multiple venues. With up to 12 streams running concurrently, you simply can’t learn about everything and it’s best to choose a couple of focus topics and plan your sessions accordingly.
  • Microsoft’s product managers are listening. One of the most rewarding aspects of this conference was the emphasis on developer feedback straight to Microsoft’s product managers. Not only were they very accessible in person, but there were specific interview sessions available to provide more formal feedback.
  • It’s a spectacle. From the celebration event at the Pop Museum and Gallery to the animal petting zoo, it’s larger and louder than your typical Australian industry event. Taking home a caricature is a case in point!
  • Americans sure do love their Starbucks. While we may have a coffee shop (or more) on every corner, in the States they have a Starbucks on every corner, and the restaurants proudly display they serve Starbucks coffee! Oh, and don’t ask for a Flat White, they don’t know what that means.

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Further resources:

Presentation on PowerApps and Flow

Simient brings technology to the frontline of Australian organisations. At the critical point of service delivery, we make sure frontline staff have the full picture about each client. We’ve worked with many government and private clients to create innovative frontline solutions.

Adrian LaunchburyAdrian Launchbury more

The Outpatient IT Dilemma

The Outpatient IT Dilemma

Australian hospitals are preoccupied with the substantial task of implementing Electronic Medical Record systems, which are sometimes touted as the answer to all IT challenges.

Australian hospitals are preoccupied with the substantial task of implementing Electronic Medical Record systems, which are sometimes touted as the answer to all IT challenges.

But amidst long, complex rollouts that chew up resources and budget, there is one area of hospital oversight that is not usually well-served by the EMR. And that’s specialist outpatient clinics.

From an IT perspective, these clinics are the poor cousins to their inpatient counterparts. Often last in line and fragmented in size and voice, these clinics are typically left to their own devices rather than serviced by a proactive IT strategy.

What this results in is the stuff of IT nightmares. Disparate systems. Home-grown databases. Shadow IT.

The outcomes are even scarier. Multiple versions of patient records. No visibility or coordination across clinics. At best, this delivers a frustrating patient experience. At worst, it creates security and privacy vulnerabilities, while wasting precious IT resources on supporting systems that are going nowhere. And not to mention the operational inefficiencies of scheduling and credentialing without proper systems.

Hospitals need to challenge the commonly-held belief that the EMR will ‘cover everything’ and independently assess the level of support (and its financial viability) for outpatient clinics.

The needs of outpatient clinics

Outpatient clinics need frontline systems that are every bit as robust and efficient as their inpatient counterparts. However due to their small size and fragmented buying power, it does not make sense to purchase a separate system for every clinic. Instead, buying power must be consolidated, along with a cohesive IT strategy that puts clinics onto a common technology platform that is easily tailored and adaptive as needs change.

Outpatient clinics need capability that includes:

  • Core functionality that can be modified to the needs of each clinic, such as scheduling, credentialing and referrals
  • Key data integration to provide connectedness and visibility, with systems such as EMR, pathology, radiology, and patient administration
  • Longitudinal care records for patients across multiple clinics, so that care and progress are easily tracked over time
  • The ability to make simple field changes within the clinic, without relying on IT
  • A patient-centric, enterprise-wide view of resource capacity and capability that enables more efficient use of resources and an improved patient experience

Solving the dilemma

The EMR is designed to solve big problems but is rarely suited to the needs of outpatient clinics – both in terms of capability provided, flexibility to service the individual needs of multiple small clinics, and cost-effectiveness where pockets simply aren’t as deep as other departments.

In short, monolithic EMRs are not the answer.

Neither is everyone doing their own thing.

A middle ground is what’s required.

This “middle ground” is a pervasive technology platform that can be used across clinics. One that brings speed, agility and value, with core clinic capabilities provided from the outset that can easily be modified and adapted to individual needs. One that takes robust care of data, security and privacy. One that allows visibility across clinics, with full coordination of appointments, tests and specialist staff. And one that stops renegade systems from mushrooming out of control, by putting outpatient clinics on the IT front foot.

Simient is a frontline solution specialist. With years of experience in the health sector, we work to bridge the technology gap for outpatient clinics. You can find us at the forthcoming eHealth Expo on June 7 in Brisbane.

John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

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