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The Richter Scale and the seismic impact of a day of work

By John Chapman, Programme Director | Wednesday 15th March 2017.
John Chapman

 

When planning projects we consider the risks to delivery, the scope of work and who needs to be involved. Projects may be assessed by size. Big projects require big plans, many project management days, lots of thought to go into arranging the resources. This is likely to be the case. Yet what about booking a single day of consultancy? What could be simpler after all it is just a day?

 

A real life example

We are providing a technical consultant to connect our Spend Control Solution PROACTIS across domains, between different public sector organisations, using the Microsoft Technology Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).  The connectivity is a critical element of the project delivery.

There are four organisations to bring together.

  1. TouchstonePROACTIS: providing the technical consultant and also an application consultant
  2. The system provider: a customer of TouchstonePROACTIS who have the software installed
  3. The connecting organisation: a new customer of TouchstonePROACTIS who will be connecting to the PROACTIS software at the system provider
  4. The ADFS technical specialists: an external organisation providing technical expertise on how to successfully use ADFS to connect Windows Domains.

Let us identify the individuals by role.

  1. TouchstonePROACTIS: 4 peopleshutterstock_341197424
    1. Project manager for resource planning
    2. Technical consultant for connectivity between PROACTIS and ADFS
    3. Application consultant to confirm the PROACTIS software functions
    4. Account manager: to agree commercial terms

 

  1. The system provider: 7 people
    1. Project manager for resource planning
    2. IT Infrastructure representative to ensure the approach is consistent with the overall connection
    3. IT Network representative to configure the link to an outside domain
    4. IT Security Specialist to agree to the connection from an outside party and sign off that this will not compromise the overall security
    5. Application user to agree that the connection of the new user base will not affect current operations
    6. Vetting department to confirm the relevant consultants have passed the required vetting and security procedures
    7. Project Executive to give authority for the work to proceed and the spend of the money

 

  1. The connecting organisation: 7 people
    1. Project manager for resource planning
    2. IT Infrastructure representative to ensure the approach is consistent with the overall connection from the connecting organisations viewpoint
    3. IT Network representative to confirm the linking to an outside domain
    4. IT Security Specialist to agree to the connection to an outside party will not compromise the overall approach
    5. Vetting department to confirm the relevant consultants have passed the required vetting and security procedures
    6. Application user to test that the connection to the external system work
    7. Project Executive to give authority for the work to proceed and the spend of the money
  2. The ADFS technical specialists: 1 person
    1. Technical specialist to provide specific advice on using ADFS and connecting two domains

 

How can we measure this complexity? By using the Helmsman Scale.

‘The Helmsman Scale is designed to mimic the Richter Earthquake scale in terms of significance. Projects are evaluated against criteria in five main areas’1:

  1. Context Complexity
  2. People Complexity
  3. Ambiguity
  4. Technical Challenge
  5. Project Management Challenge

 

The Scale notes for Technical Challenge

‘The Technical challenge faced by a project is often given the most attention. … It is a critical driver of complexity. Helmsman measures technical complexity by looking at the definition, history of development and number of core subsystems expected in the final solution. In addition the previous experience of subsystems integration is evaluated to understand the complexity challenge of the systems integration required.’2

The connection may take only a day to deliver. There are 19 people required to be aligned for this single day to be successful, plus operating systems, connectivity software, application software and infrastructure. Typically technical specialists are booked 6 to 8 weeks in advance. Success and the project continues. Problems and the project is delayed 6 to 8 weeks. The project business case identified that each 4 week delay cost the organisation £25,000. An 8 week delay is £50,000.

Now consider as Project Manager reporting back to the Project Board an 8 week delay due to problems with ‘a day of work’. The implications are a financial cost £50,000.

On what level of the Richter Scale would be their response? Similar to a Magnitude 5 at 2 terajoules or perhaps a Magnitude 7 at 2 petajoules? Would the room shake as you gave your presentation?

An earthquake may only take one day, its impact a lot longer to recover from. When planning remember Charles Richter. Consider the impact of not planning correctly, and remember to identify who and what is required to successfully complete each day of your project?

 

John Chapman, Programme Director

References:

  1. https://iccpm.com/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Guide_to_the_Complexity_Scale_v_1.2.pdf
  2. Ibid
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