The Business Is the Bottleneck
By Ellen van Aken
“Ellen, could you have this site up and running in about 2 weeks?” my clients often asked. “Yes, I could, but can you?” I always answered, “my experience is that the business, and that is you, is usually the bottleneck.”
The client always looked a bit annoyed when I said that . And that was a good starting point for a conversation about roles and responsibilities.
Why was it sometimes not ready in 2 weeks?
Of course it is understandable that someone wants to use his or her new site quickly. They have a problem or a good idea, and they want to take advantage or solve the problem as quickly as possible. And when you are the business owner of a problem or an idea, and you brief someone else to do the configuration of a site that will address the idea or problem, you will want to know when it will be ready. We have all done Project Management, haven’t we?
But the business owner has his or her regular work, and that always has priority. Products must be developed, manufactured, promoted and sold, customers or suppliers must be visited, and reports created.
In addition, the business owner does not always know what is expected of them when they ask for support. ”I give a briefing, you understand exactly what they need and want, so it should be ready for use in 2 weeks” is the prevailing thought.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
- I may have misunderstood something.
Functional requirements may need to be translated in a different way than expected, which may have unexpected consequences which have to be dealt with.
It may turn out that in real life the process is a little different than briefed.
In short, you will need regular alignment with the business owner. And he or she needs to test whether the site meets their requirements and fits their actual process.
How have we managed expected timing issues?
- We told our business owners in advance what their responsibilities were, such as:
- Providing us with the information that we needed to determine the business case and priority of the project
Introducing the site to their target audience
We created as many alternative solutions as possible up front, so they could test and compare multiple solutions simultaneously.
We told them what and how they were expected to test.
We agreed when they had to schedule time for testing.
We told them that, after a missed deadline on their part, we could give no guarantees on the timing of final delivery.
Especially the last 2 points usually moved the deadline to a later date…
How much time did a site configuration actually take?
Of course this varied with priority, complexity and the responsiveness of the business owner. We have delivered a site in 2 days (it was a very important, very urgent project and not too complicated) and CRM-in-a-TeamSite (another website) took about 6 months, almost fulltime. That was a very complex configuration, a very important process with a huge business case, and with a business owner and target audience in Australia.
And of course there were projects which took a year or more but those were generally the ones with an “Unwilling” business owner. These sites were often deleted after a year or so, never having been used.
In general, the time we spent “clicking” was a couple of hours, but the total turnaround time about 8 weeks.
What are your experiences?
How have you worked with the business to manage expectations about timing? Your tips are welcome!
Ellen van Aken is an Intranet/Digital Workplace/Collaboration/Sharepoint Evangelist. You can read more from Ellen on her blog.
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