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PM Essence
Effective Project Management Techniques for Complex Business Transformation Program

- Srikanth Srigiri, Ramanathan Kasiviswanathan, Saminathan Venkatesan Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)
 

The success of a Business Transformation program not only depends on strong leadership and strategic planning of an organization, but also rests on robust project management to deliver the program on schedule and on budget as expected.

 

This article showcases the application of various best practices and techniques of project management for the successful completion of business transformation program for their prioritized lines of business.

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Some of the techniques that were employed during the execution of the program include: 


a) Phased rollout with staggered releases 
b) Evaluation and recommendation on Green Field versus COTS development
c) Sync-up and coordination between Business and IT teams
d) Continuous Integration Testing
e) Automation opportunities in Testing and Manual tasks
f) Data provisioning to cover all possible functional test scenarios
 
These techniques helped in laying down a high quality path for replicating the successful implementation of complex business transformation program for the remaining lines of business.
 
The Customer was the fortune 500 organization and provides the Insurance and Investment services in the United States of America (USA). The Customer embarked on a major business transformation program to simplify their business processes. As part of this initiative, they wanted to modernize their current legacy platform, provide a simple and easy-to-use interface for their producers and improve the timeto- market for their product offerings.
 
Some of the significant challenges that prioritized the immediate need of having a business transformation initiative to enhance the producer and customer experience are listed below.
 
The systems used for new business acquisition and vendor interfacing systems were based on legacy technologies and cumbersome to use.
 
Multiple systems existed for similar functionalities and more time was spent of integrating the data from multiple systems and this led to the frustration of the producers of the company.
 
In a competitive environment, complex systems were not helping the client organization to be easy and nimble to deal with. It had a direct impact on the turn-around time for the producers with the end customers driving the business towards the competitors.
 
Solution Options
Once the need for the business transformation program was envisioned, the project team considered a couple of options for the execution of the project.
 
Green Field versus COTS Development
Traditional implementation of complex development programs profoundly incline towards green field development. In contrast, the project team recommended the option of leveraging COTS(Commercial off the Shelf) product for a quicker and cost effective implementation.
 
The following were the factors which tilted the decision towards buying a product: 
 
COTS product was readily available to cater to the customer needs and was already proven in the industry in terms of functionality and ease of use.
 
Being a popular product, availability of resources for design & development and later maintaining was not a major concern.
 
Effective Project Management Practices for Business Transformation Program
Following are some highlights among the many significant best practices and techniques.
 
Execution Model and Strategy
Large and complex business transformation projects are prone to risks, budget overruns and schedule slippages. Hence, a set of best practices were leveraged effectively to complete the program without slippages:
 
Overall program was divided into multiple phases with staggered releases for delivering the overall functionality
 
Program was executed in cosourcing model where the vendor had more ownership and accountability
 
Leveraged Onsite-Offshore model with high offshore leverage to provide the cost benefits to customer
 
Effectively leveraged both Horizontal and Vertical traceability matrices to ensure that none of the requirements (both functional and nonfunctional) were overlooked
 
Communication and Collaboration
For a program of this magnitude, where there are so many players involved, communication and collaboration was a very key ingredient for the success. Following measures were introduced by the vendor to achieve the high level coordination between the teams:
 
Physical co-location
 
Weekly knowledge sharing and sync-up sessions 
 
Master traceability matrix covering front-end, data warehousing and reporting modules. 
 
Celebration of small success stories of collaboration in the presence of senior management helped to keep the teams motivated 
 
Bi-weekly videoconferences between the onsite and offshore teams
 
In summary, the vendor effectively leveraged a collection of project coordination techniques, both formal and informal, as shown in figure.
 
Testing
Team has leveraged some innovative practices to optimize the effort as well as improve the efficiency in testing phases.
 
a) Automation in Testing
First thing that the team did was to identify and analyze similar looking test cases for possibility of automation. Since the test cases were to be repeated in multiple environments so the team felt the real need for automation to optimize the effort involved in testing.
 
The team allocated some effort to create the automation test scripts before they began with the testing and used a scheduling tool which was already available at the customer location for executing them.
 
b) Data Provisioning
One of the main challenge was to get a good representative sample set of test data which will still retain data integrity even while picking only a subset of the original dataset based on quantity (number of rows) or another filter which limits the number of rows.
 
This challenge was dispensed by following the below steps:
 
The test cases from the quality assurance team were analyzed for the right subset of the data.
 
The team came up with a simple data provisioning tool with the help of the Vendor's tools team which helped to pick a subset of the sample data based on various constraints, all the while maintaining the data integrity between the dependent tables
 
This not only helped to get the right subset of data but also helped to bring down the data preparation time drastically.
 
c) Continuous Integration Testing
With such a huge program involving multiple moving parts, the program team decided against reserving integration testing to the later stages of the project considering the risk factors. The intent was to find the integration related issues as early as possible in the project lifecycle, so that the integrating teams had enough time to address the issues adequately.
 
In order to accomplish this, the idea of continuous integration testing was a huge success. As many integration related issues were uncovered which could have shattered the project's schedule and cost, if they were not found early in the lifecycle.
 
Conclusion
Generally software vendors implement various development programs in a traditional away but customers will realize the value only when various techniques and best practices of Project Management are effectively applied from planning to closing phases to address the project constraints. This is especially significant for a huge transformation program which involves many moving parts and a large number of teams.
 
In this case study, the best practices of project management have been successfully leveraged to complete one such complex, large business transformation program with minimal issues. This timely completion of the project on schedule and on budget helped the business to launch the product on time. This also paved the way for the remaining tracks to use these best practices and continue to deliver successfully.
 
The major benefits of the business transformation program include but not limited to:
 
Business metrics started showing improvement in the new business acquisition directly impacting the top line and reduction in redundant systems/duplicate processed helped with the bottom line as well
 
A quick customer satisfaction survey conducted for the end users of the product (the producers of the company) showed a very high satisfaction rate.