CHOW #1– How to choose success criteria for a project?

You are the Project Manager for developing a new web-based application for a customer that will replace a series of linked Excel spreadsheets. Senior managers in the customer organization are keen on having this done as they are frustrated by issues arising from lack of data integrity and lack of transparency of information (due to which they have to keep following up with the operations staff for “custom” queries). The operations team is not very happy with losing their spreadsheets and moving to the new solution. One of their main apprehensions is that the new application will enforce business rules a lot more strictly, possibly making data entry and usage cumbersome and time consuming.

What are the “success criteria” of this project in terms of outcomes (rather than just scope, schedule and cost goals)?

What are the items that you will include in your project scope that would address the above “success criteria”? Provide reasons (and any assumptions) for the items that you propose to include in the project scope.

Suggested solution:

Success criteria of the project (to replace linked Excel files with a web based application):

  • To introduce the new system and get users to adopt it and prevent them from falling back to Excel
  • To reduce the time spent by senior managers in following up for information retrieval
  • To reduce instances of adverse impact due to lack of a central store of data

Some of the possible specific project scope items to help “sell” the idea and address user apprehensions:

Prepare an extract from the Charter for the project the issues with the existing the Excel-based working (from business point of view) and present in briefing meetings with groups of key users.

  • Develop a simple UI demo and get select sample set of users to play with it in a classroom so that they know it is not that difficult
  • Conduct user workshops to address the following:
    • Getting users to respond to a complex query for information from past data (in Excel sheets) and let them see how laborious it would be
    • As a contrast, use a prototype to show how simply the new application would be able to handle such complex queries
    • The benefit of reduced “interruptions” from senior managers in asking for some information or the other (since they can get it themselves directly from the new application without bothering operations staff)
    • Highlight risks in current way of working
      • Some links could get broken and not realized (error may show up in data; debugging may be complex)
      • A new recruit may inadvertently do something in the spreadsheets and cause a lot of damage
      • It will simply not scale in volumes & complexity (data model, query complexity…) & life for operations staff will get difficult in coping with massive Excel files
    • Incorporate in the new application Excel upload and download features for select areas (only when well-justified!)
What do you think?

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