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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

SNw 012 Engineer against Failure
Created by James on 6/13/2013 1:51:07 PM


Many I.T. project fail to meet business expectations and many strategic planning sessions fail to produce lasting improvement in organizations -- how do you achieve success?

Eighteen years ago I set out to bring the disciplines of engineering to I.T. projects.  After ten years I realized that Engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up ...

This article explains the key lessons that I have learned which can be summarized by the statement:

To succeed, engineer against failure

 

 

1. Introduction

Failure of I.T. projects and strategic plans to deliver on original expectations is common place and many executives are frustrated and do not know what to do -- why does this happen and how does one achieve successful outcomes?

Eighteen years ago I left my job in a Consulting Engineering firm and started out on my own with the objective of bringing the disciplines of engineering to the I.T. industry.

Little did I know then what a challenge this would be!

Over the years I have progressively developed my understanding of what is required to bring the discipline of engineering to information technology projects and, in the process, I have discovered that the same approach is required to achieve successful strategic change -- in fact I discovered that the failure of information technology projects is generally a failure of overall strategic change capability within organizations.

About ten years into this journey I realized that engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up and, in unpacking this understanding I came to develop the structure that is set out in the sections that follow.

I hope that you will find this information useful.

 

2. The physical world reality -- most things work

In considering the issues of sub-optimal performance and failure referred to above, it is useful to contrast this experience with the physical world -- as a general rule buildings stand up, aircraft fly, cars work, houses keep out the rain and they do so consistently and reliably.

Engineers know how to design structures, factories, devices, etc that succeed.

In fact, in most areas of life we take success as a given and immediately return any item that fails.

In fact, our expectation of success is so great that people resort to litigation if a product fails and the vendor or developer fails to make good or refund our money.

Legislation enforces statutory requirements for success on the engineering profession and criminal charges can be brought against an engineer who is negligent to the point of causing loss of life.

How does one achieve the same high expectation of success in the fields of information technology and strategy?

 

3. Engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up ...

Some years ago, as I continued to encounter failure and sought to provide services geared to preventing failure and ensuring success it suddenly dawned on me:

Engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up!

...

Engineers design bridges NOT TO FALL DOWN!

...

There is a fundamental difference of approach and attitude between designing a bridge to stand up and designing a bridge not to fall down.

In order to design a bridge not to fall down one must understand all the factors that can give rise to failure and then analyse those factors to gain understanding of exactly how failure of the bridge may occur.

Once one understands how the bridge can fail one can then design the bridge in such a way that failure does not occur.

In fact, a large part of formal engineering training at University involves understanding how things fail and how to prevent failure.

A large proportion of the time that engineers spend designing buildings, factories and other created human works is spent considering factors of safety against failure and probability of failure -- in order to prevent failure.

In doing this there is a constant trade-off between cost and safety with clearly defined parameters in different industries as to what constitutes acceptable probability of failure or factor of safety.

How does one get to this same level of certainty in I.T. and strategy projects?

 

4. What causes I.T. failure?

In order to answer this question it is necessary to understand what causes I.T. and strategy failure.

After speaking and consulting for years about the factors causing failure and the requirements for success I undertook a critical issues analysis of the factors causing failure and came up with the following critical contributors to I.T. failure -- percentages indicate the relative contribution to failure of these factors in my experience:

1. Information technology mythology (30%)

2. Lack of executive custody and inappropriate policies (20%)

3. Lack of strategic alignment (15%)

4. Lack of an engineering approach (12%)

5. Poor data engineering / information management (10%)

6. People / soft issues (8%)

7. Technology issues (5%)

Mythology is the use of words that attribute human or super human properties to computer based systems and the tendency to think that we can do anything we think without negative consequences in the field of both strategy and I.T.

These topics are discussed in detail in my book "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" and on my courses -- see below for details of the Critical Factors course in August.

 

5. The requirements for success

In countering the factors causing failure in order to achieve success the following factors need to be managed:

1. Executive Custody and Policy (25%)

2. Strategic Architecture (18%)

3. Strategic Alignment (16%)

4. Business Integration and Optimization (14%)

5. Project Schedule, Budget and Resource Management (12%)

6. Data Engineering and Information Management (10%)

7. Technology Components (5%)

Executive custody is a proprietary sense of ownership by business executives -- this is MY system.

Professor Mervyn King (formerly Justice King) defines governance as care.

Executive custody is care for the business and the information systems that serve it.

This necessitates that business executives take an active and informed view of I.T. -- this does not require a lot of time, it requires an attitude, a state of mind.

 

6. Other aspects requiring management

There are diverse other aspects that require management including a series of essential executive questions that start with whether there is a clear definition of the business value that will be delivered by any investment through to whether the mechanics are in place to be able to hold service providers and vendors legally accountable for damage done to the business by a project failure.

Other aspects include critical stages of projects, some critical principles and the critical human foundation which includes business knowledge and experience, technology knowledge and experience, psychometrics, solution knowledge and solution experience.

It is vital to recognize that once a solution has been designed and built all one has is solution knowledge.

Solution experience is either gained by conducting a live experiment on the business or else by setting up a laboratory environment where the solution can be comprehensively tested with a view to breaking it until it can no longer be broken and the organization has substantial solution experience.

Then one can safely run live with controlled risk of damage to the business and a high probability of a successful outcome.

 

7. I.T. is about people

Examination of the above will reveal that I.T. failure and success are about people.

People conceptualize the project and run the project.

People capture the inputs to the system and people interpret and sometimes act on the outputs of the system.

Until one recognizes that the essence of value creation is based on what people do or do not do one cannot deliver value with I.T.

Only 5% of what causes failure relates to technology and only 5% of what is required for success relates to technology -- the rest is dependent on things that people do and, since the technology itself is a manifestation of the actions of people, even the 5% is a function of what people do or do not do.

An understanding of human psychology and strategy is essential to achieving successful I.T. (and strategy) outcomes.

Strategy is the essence of why an organization exists and how it thrives and this is an intuitive cognitive response of the leaders and people of the organization to the needs of its customers.

 

Conclusion -- In order to succeed engineer against failure

Engineering is the practical application of established principles to achieve commercially viable and safe results.

Engineering implies a systematic, methodical, orderly, disciplined approach to understanding the problem and designing and implementing the solution.

Fifty years ago when the first computers came into existence the commercial application of computers in business as we know it today was not even conceptually envisaged.

Today we have computers that are massively powerful in terms of their ability to process transactions and execute complex computations but human knowledge and experience -- wisdom if you like -- in preventing failure and achieving success has lagged behind.

The factors set out above provide the essence of an engineering approach to designing I.T. projects not to fail

and

therefore

to succeed.

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Dr James A Robertson PrEng The ERP Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.

Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.

He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.

If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com

Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.

All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.

There HAS to be a better way!

This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control

We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website

We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT

This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.

Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.

Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:

Connect with James Robertson on LinkedIn

James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor

James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.

Contact Us

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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles


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Table of Contents

Home

About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics

Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures

About the Engineering Approach

James Robertson's Value Add

Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution

Recognizing Business System Failure

The Critical Human Foundation

Old Software IS Viable

From South Africa

Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng

About Professor Malcolm McDonald

Table of Contents

About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing

Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics

Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?

The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody

Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

IT Project Management

Pulse Measurement

CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement

No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes

Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™

The Pulse Measurement Workflow

The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement

Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Sample Pulse Measurement Reports

Strategy

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

Strategic Essence: Overview

Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation

Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different

Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure

Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence

Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?

Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

Robust Business Systems Procurement

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc

Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters

Procurement Documents

Guidance and Advisory Services

The Art of Project Leadership

Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital

The Business Simulation Laboratory

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

The JAR&A Cubic Business Model

Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal

The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask

Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration

092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013

088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa

026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf

018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf

011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering

Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations

Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment

The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual

Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software

Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References

Example General Ledger Manual

Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

The RIGHT Approach

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

Standards for Custom Software Specification

What IS Software?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

Critical Factors for I.T. Success

A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

Case Studies examining Business Information System failures

The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle

The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict

Speaking and Training

Showcase of Conference Presentations

Most Viewed Presentations

Briefings and Seminars

Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results

The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success

Other Seminars

Conferences and Public Presentations

Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present

Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009

Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005

Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996

Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994

On-Line Seminars (Webinars)

Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited