Case Study:

Rescuing a project in a downward spiral

The problem

A critical $20M+ million project losing momentum; its viability in doubt and no end in sight

The Solution

Stepping out of a ‘death-march’ cycle of endless iterations, and guiding the project over the line.

“We had to untether the project from the constraints of what had gone before, to clear room for the project to be what it needed to be.”

Our Thinking

First we had to break and reset expectations of what and how the project would deliver. We discovered that a root cause of the problem was a basic lack of clarity on the essential project requirements.  Thinking was still tied to the old IT system: they expected a ‘like for like’ replacement. We had to untether the project from the constraints of what had gone before, to clear room for the project to become what it needed to be.

We also discovered that the project was trapped in a loop of continual testing. On paper, the project seemed to be just one stage short of completion. In practice, business acceptance testing kept uncovering system requirements. As the project timeline ballooned, stakeholders questioned why delivery kept being delayed. The software vendor was also concerned by the never-ending cycle of more defects to fix, on what they thought was a finished product. Lines of communication were frayed.

It was clear that our client had to draw a line in the sand: to define what issues would be resolved at launch, and what issues would be tackled later. The client was deeply committed to project quality, so we reassured them that containing scope did not mean compromising quality. Iterative development enabled them to let go of less-essential requirements, knowing there was a plan for delivery post-launch.

That line in the sand also helped restore relationships with the software vendor. With reset expectations, they gained a clear brief on they had to deliver.

The outcome

With our help, the project was successfully delivered. They delivered all the scope that the business needed at launch, and since then, all the remaining scope and issues have also been tackled. Implementation ran smoothly, with minimum disruption to operations. Now, work that had been waiting on this project could begin in earnest.

Beyond the planned benefits, the client also gained standing in the eyes of stakeholders. They had demonstrated their capability to deliver. The relationship with the vendor was back on solid ground, and continues to this day. Previously segregated business areas are now working more closely together.

In an external PWC review, our client said that this process was the best-run implementation in their history. They experienced this both in how smoothly it progressed, and how well-prepared they were for the end-product they received.

As the external review found, while Reason’s methods may have not followed the text book, in this case, they were exactly what this project needed.

“In an external PWC review, our client said that this process was the best-run implementation in their history, both in how smoothly it progressed, and how well-prepared they were for the end-product.”