February 2009 - Embrace the Future - OBUG

On March 31st I am scheduled to present at the Oracle Benelux User Group Conference in Antwerp, Belgium (www.obug.nl/2009/) – the theme is: Embrace The Future. The topic of my presentation is a subject I have written about and spent much of my free time working on, "How to improve the Design Stages of an implementation project". You may remember that I have been working on a prototype application to prove my belief that the Business Analyst would benefit from specialized tools that make them more productive. In the last few weeks I have added the Data mart capability to my prototype Business Analyst Workbench and will be highlighting this during my presentation. With a repository based data mining capability it is easier to query for the impact a change will have, across the many applications being implemented by the project team. This new capability combined with the already developed Client based access to repository data and Task based Requirements Capturing capability make this tool the beginning of my Business Analyst Workbench.

Having reached this milestone, I sat back and asked myself, what else do we need to help reduce the cost of Design and ensure the success of our projects. The simple solution made me wonder, have I been asleep all this time, as the answer was so obvious. The Siebel CRM Application Suite is meant to improve the relationships between Company and Customer, why not use the same technologies to improve the relationship between our Project Teams and our Information Technology Customers, the End User.

Embedded into the Siebel CRM Applications are communications tools, marketing tools, survey tools, task generation and dispersal tools with tracking and issue resolution aids. We have tools to help automate Business Process logic and track related materials storing them in either a transaction oriented database or file related content management system. Data warehouse technology is embedded to help analyze and communicate progress, analyze risk, and facilitate collaboration.

It seems to me, that even today, in our fourth decade of computer technology supporting our companies operations, we still run projects in the same way with the same risks and the same percentage of failure rates we saw in the 1960's. To prove this statement just poll your user community and you will typically find the same negative perception of the Information Technology teams.

The problem many of us face is that there is not one system to handle the varying type of information in the different media formats, each satisfying a specific need of the team. We have separate software for our Lists be they Wish Lists, Bug Lists, Requirements Lists, or Task Lists. We need Project Management Data with estimated versus actual accountings. We create Documents, Presentations, Newsletters, Surveys, and other content that is communicated internally and externally. We have Approvals that need to be tracked with Signoff's that need to be accounted for. Work needs to be broken down and allocated to people by skill sets. We need to be more productive and manage our productivity.

Funny, but each of these needs are needs of our Sales, Service, and Marketing departments with supporting solutions in the Siebel CRM solution. We use Sales Assistants to generate lists and activities to track our tasks, including the arrangement of our calendars. We use Service Requests to track issues. We use forecasting and compare estimated productivity versus actual productivity. Approval processes can be aided and automated with Workflow customizations. Content Management tools identify and track what materials distributed for internal and external consumption.

What I find to be the funniest bit of irony is that in addition to all the capability matches between Siebel CRM and the needs of our Project teams, is the fact that we probably own the licenses needed to use the CRM solution to help the Project Team Relationship Management needs. I have always loved a bargain and using tools that are available to solve problems in a creative way.

Over the next few months I will be working both internally and externally to advocate the use of our existing technologies to aid project teams and reduce the risk of project failures. The challenges are many as whatever platform we decide on must be integrated with the tools and data maintained in our distributed project based application software. With the potential benefit as being great, the risk of allocating one senior level Siebel CRM Database Administrator to gather and integrate the dispersed data does not seem unreasonable. Getting Business Analysts with free time to document the Business Processes implemented using tools that integrate graphic data and Siebel Repository Data would be appreciated before an upgrade or major implementation initiative.

Yet even with the distributed nature and specialized meta data and application code library requirements we see a solution to this problem already in use by our business departments. Tools like Oracle Fusion Middleware are bringing together applications and their data so that it can be shared and accessed across many applications and users. Can't we use our integration technologies to bring together IT related data. I know we can break a lot of our data into categories of process, entities, attributes, and relationships. I know the challenge and the creative ways needed to consolidate business data into a Data warehouse and believe that the same thing could be done with project data.

With the advent of Out Sourcing we see project teams dispersed and many times partnering with external resources. Oracle Siebel CRM solutions provide the diversity of communications channels enabling us to integrate our geographically dispersed resources. Siebel Partner Management features allow us to segment data and maintain privacy. The consolidation of these resources into one tracking system where data is not lost at the end of a project would mean that we could actually view the productivity of our developers with the same rigor that we do for our marketable products and services. Maintaining profiles of our developers would help us understand true learning curve productivity estimates when we add junior or senior level resources to our next project. As more companies are going green by reducing travel, standardization of project data would enable vendors to offer new Design and Support services to the project team integrating through the project management system without having to travel and incur the cost to the environment and project budget.

Many of you will look at the initial cost of setting up a system to consolidate all project data and will be scared away from the attempt. As vendors we will need to add capabilities to existing products to enable them to natively support the needs of the project team and we will be scared away. As is always the case, some of us will not be scared away from an initiative that can have long term positive benefits, and they will be the companies that will prosper during the economic winter and be ready to take the market when the climate warms again.

I am anxious to hear from others who share my vision or oppose the concept. I hope to meet some of you at the end of March at my first Oracle Benelux User Group meeting.

http://www.obug.nl/2009/


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