Insight from Agora Consultants

It Takes a Team

One of the more troubling trends I’ve seen in RFPs lately is the request to bid an “expert” to assist with or complete an implementation of an EPM solution. Some will ask for a few experts and in both cases will focus on the submitted resumes for validation that the bid qualifies. I do understand why procurement processes demand this approach. Too many companies have been burned by the dazzling corporate resume and the very junior resource that actually showed up to do the work. That said, prescribing the role or even limited roles for the project is an incorrect approach.

Think about the many other areas of life where we engage experts such as: car repair, home renovations, the medical profession and financial services. I would assert that in none of those cases we pre-define what skills are needed and how many people will be used to complete the required task. True, we may prefer a specific individual as the point person because of the required level of trust or the exchange of intimate information but, take your doctor as an example. Over your lifetime your doctor will refer you to numerous specialists to address specific health concerns you may have. There is almost no chance that you would refuse this approach and insist that your General Physician handle everything. There is even less chance that they will agree to this approach. They know the limits of their knowledge and the scope of their expertise.

To take more of a project perspective on this let’s consider hiring a company to remodel your kitchen. While I enjoy the odd Do-It-Yourself home reno project I am not inclined to call a company to redo my kitchen and then tell them how to do the project and the resources they can use. I’ll ask for a quote based on the scope I communicate to the various companies I contact and they will determine how best to get the job done. In some cases, one person may handle several tasks where another might divide them up. I’m interested in the end result and how soon I’ll be able to cook a meal again. I do not care how many different trades are used within the budget I agree to fund. In fact, the more experts the better. I want the finished kitchen to be of the highest quality possible and not the work of a generalist who’s decent at various aspects of the project and really good at one or two tasks. I want each task done by someone who is very skilled in their assigned task.

This same logic should apply to an implementation of a business system such as Project Server (inclusive of Project Online). We never bid an implementation project with a single resource. We can’t imagine how that would work and certainly don’t believe it will be successful. Project Server is a powerful solution that touches a wide range of business challenges. While I believe strongly in my team and am wowed by their depth and experience, to a person, not one of them would suggest that they can complete an entire implementation on their own.

On average our teams include at least 4 roles and sometimes as many as 10. Obviously the team needs a Project Server expert and in some cases several. It may require one to drive requirements gathering and design and another to own the architectural components and the configuration itself. The project may also require business analysis resources to model processes and design reports. The project will need a Project Manager for our team and likely one for the client-side of the project. The team also needs training expertise. Consultants aren’t necessarily trainers. True, in some cases their depth of knowledge of the implemented solution requires them to be involved in the training. There is still a need to train the broader user community and this requires resources skilled in teaching. More implementations fail because the user community was inadequately trained than because the configuration was incorrect. Leaving training to the configuration expert or to a train the trainer approach leaves too much to chance. Finally, these implementations frequently involve custom workflows, reports and integration with other systems. These are tasks best performed by a developer with the skills, experience and tools needed to complete these tasks in a timely manner.

Additionally, the team needs a broader team behind them. It needs this larger team to turn to for ideas and solutions to technical issues, back-up in the case of a need to be away from the project and resources to lean on when the schedule needs to be accelerated. The implementation team is a squad of complimentary skills inside a larger army. The value of a company like Agora is the collective depth and experience of the entire team and not simply the team assigned to your project.

It may take a village to raise a child. It takes a team to complete an implementation. Asking for a “Jack of all trades” is procuring the wrong service. This is an implementation of a business enablement system and not the time for a lone wolf to trudge through a long, self-fulfilling contract.

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