Wednesday, July 21, 2004

People vs Process vs Technology

I just complete conducting a 2 days training on MS Project Server this evening. The latest MS Project Server has some new features that is quite neat, useful and is more stable and pretictable than the previous version. Some of the trainee has very eager to see the collaboration features coz they said that is what they want.
I finally show them these features today together with the process/workflow and at which point of the process use which features and how to use it. I notice quite a few of them got lost in the middle. I have observe this situation in few other places also.
The reason to this is that the technology change how they do their work. In the past, the project manager has to do all the work including updating project status. So they don't need to think much about delegation and process since there is only one central point to do the work.
But the new technology change this in an obvious way.  Let's go though some of them. The comparison is both using MS Project as the project management tool, but one is running in standalone mode, and the other run in server mode.
Project Manager used to do all the updates and communication work himself. Using MS Project Server, some of these work has been automated. For example, whenever a task is assigned to a team member, the team member receive notification and update the task via Project Server Web Access. This eliminate certain level of communication between the 2 parties. And in between this process, there is an approval step which was never happen before.
When MS Project run in standalone mode, everytime a new project is created, the PM switch to resource sheet and simply type in the resource name. But if the PM does this in Project Server, he will mess up the resource management. The PM is suppose to import the resource into the project through the Enterprise Resource Pool. If he simply type in the resource name, the resource won't be made as enterprise resource and therefore no analysis can be made for that resource such as availability and utilization. For example, if you simply assign a resource to a task that happen on a day where the resource has some other work, how do you expect the resource to manage his time, do you want him to work 16hr a day ?
Enterprise resource is a very useful features but it often cause confusion and complexity to the user because they never had this feature before. This is not an enhancement, it simply is a brand new thing.
Looking at this scenerio at a higher perspective, the confusion is neither because the user is dump or the technology is too complex. The user sometime know what they want, but they just can't visualize or express it. The technology can also achieve what they want. So, where is the gap that cause all these confusion?
It is the process. People always think that by buying new software and technology will help them to do their work better. What they don't realize that they have to first analyze, understand, visualize their business process, problem and need first. Without knowing your business process and needs well, you can't dictate what features you really need and where you can apply them.
Technology can only do wonders if you know how to use them effectively, what problem they are trying to solve and where to apply them. And you always have to link this back to your business need.
But don't get me wrong. I am not saying that business willl dictate everything. There is a balance that need to be strike between business need and technology. Technology will  change how people work(whether is for good or bad), and business will also dictate the technology. There will be some compromise. The key here is understand what, how and where to compromise and what new benefits you gain from this compromise and does it justify.
Deploy the technology without the proper process will almost destined to doom. It is very costly to realize this later and fix it late.
Another aspect to consider is the people. You can develop super cool features and introduce super efficient process. But does you user is going to buy it ? Can they accept the new changes ? Are they ready for the changes ? Or are you targeting the right person ? For example, if you are selling a solution that help improve the communication and tranparency of information within an organization, it is always better to start the initiative from top management.
If you are selling a solution that can help people to do work faster, reducing overtime work, it is a good chance that it will work out better if you approach people at the operation level.
Always remember this sequence : People, Process and Technology. End of the day, it is people who develop the business process, and it is people who will sign the cheque and use the product.


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