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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.
Let us identify the individuals by role.
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:
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