The key to project success is learning from what works as well as what doesn’t work . Baseline has compiled a list of best practices drawn from nearly 230 case studies we’ve written in the last five years.
Lesson 1: Business processes should set the agenda, not technology.Toyota Motor is on track to pass General Motors and soon become the world’s largest automotive manufacturer. Technology plays an important role in Toyota’s drive to the top, but the company never loses sight of what comes first: improving its manufacturing and business processes.
See: Toyota’s Driving Force
Lesson 2: Biting the bullet and migrating off an older technology can pay off. R.L. Polk & Co., one of the largest providers of marketing data to automakers, wanted to retire its expensive batch-oriented mainframe system. It spent $20 million to form a new subsidiary that in 18 months developed a “data factory” built on a service-oriented architecture and Intel-based servers. The project let the company cut the head count of its data center operations group by 43%, and also saved money on hardware and software.
See: SOA Case Study: How R.L. Polk Revved Its Data Engine
Lesson 3: Track projects across the entire enterprise. American Family Life Assurance Co. (AFLAC) used to have dozens of technology projects moving at once, but the company wasn’t ever sure when its 230 technologists would be done with an installation and free to start something new. AFLAC set up a project management office and put software in place that lets executives and project planners see who is assigned to which projects, how many hours they have put in, how many hours are left and which project they will work on next.
See: AFLAC: Duck Soup
Lesson 4: Get stakeholders in the same room. In five years, the number of software applications used by Cirque du Soleil employees had ballooned from roughly 40 to more than 200. Although these tools ran a wide range of operations, they could not share data. The company’s goal was to organize all the application environments onto a single, standardized platform for access and development. Getting all the stakeholders in the same room to agree on the requirements was critical to the project’s success.
See: Cirque du Soleil: Juggling Act
Lesson 5: Give customers what they want. Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can look at their data and identify members, determine who contributes how much in donations, and track who’s becoming discontent and may abandon ship. With a well-trained staff and the technology to track worshipper demographics and their shopping, prayer and volunteerism behavior patterns, World Changers can target products and services to its followers and keep its pews filled.
See: World Changers Church: Know Thy Customer
Lesson 6: Measure successbut also failure. Technology managers at the Bank of New York thought they were doing a good job of running its information systems, but they couldn’t back up their assessment with metrics. That’s why they turned to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, a set of best practices guidelines for managing technology.
See: How Bank of New York Uses ITIL to Troubleshoot
Lesson 7: The easiest solution isn’t always the best. Merrill Lynch & Co reinvigorated 420 financial programs stored on mainframe computers. How? By buildingfrom scratchWeb services that can handle millions of interactions a day. But unlike many other corporations that are embracing Web services, Merrill decided to do it without the help of a traditional vendor of Web services platforms. Instead, it chose to develop and implement an entirely new Web services architecture on its own.
See: Merrill Lynch & Co.: Web Services, Millions of Transactions, All Good
Lesson 8: Consider Master Data Management. Mentor Graphics, a maker of electronic design automation systems, tried to manually bandage the problem of incorrect and inconsistent data in its enterprise information systems. But it was losing the fight. Then the company deployed a master data management system to automatically update changes in its operations.
See: Master Data Management: How Mentor Graphics Mastered the Data Monster
Lesson 9: Make a lean system even leaner. Tom Mathis, vice president of supply chain management at Danaher Sensors and Controls, had the job of taking a “lean” organization and making it even leaner. So he bucked corporate tradition when he proposed adding computerization to a manufacturing process known for achieving efficiency without it.
See: Danaher Corp.: Leaner Machine
Lesson 10: Don’t use complicated, expensive software when a clipboard and pencil will do. Dollar General, the $8.6 billion discount retailer, can get a new store up in eight days or fewer thanks to a super-efficient logistics process honed each time it sets up one of its 8,000 stores. Key ingredients: sweat equity and scant technology beyond PC cash registers on a satellite system.
See: Dollar General: 8 Days To Grow