Gateway Reviews

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Conclusion: Effective project managers prize the importance of capturing lessons learnt during the life of a project, but too often, it is just a necessary task to complete at project closure. By following simple tips and adhering to some techniques, project managers can get increased benefits for themselves and the organisations they work with.

Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are often undertaken at the end of the project to gain learnings for future projects. Project reviews completed during the life of a project need to ensure that they are inclusive of appropriate stakeholder groups and assessment is targeted at the appropriate focus areas. Active and inclusive review and assurance activities need to be well understood and supported within the organisation so that it is not viewed as an exam that needs to be prepared for and passed. Applying reviews and assurance as a process checkpoint only is ineffective and will not ensure quality project delivery.

Conclusion: Many municipalities and civic enterprises contemplating Smart City initiatives are simply not capable of implementing them because they lack the leadership, partnering skills, corporate experience, skills, sophistication and organisation required to address these global urban planning and ICT developments locally1.

The remedy is at Governance level.

Municipalities must assess their own native capability to contemplate, evaluate, manage and complete Smart City business and ICT solutions according to global best practices.

Conducting a fundamental high level appraisal of a city’s ability to undertake Smart City tasks and programs may be the most valuable contribution that most mayors and civic management teams can make for the modern municipality.

Only municipalities working through a broad Digital Transformation strategy can truly expect to be in strategic control of Smart City initiatives as part of that framework. 'Smart’ initiatives are a critical element in fulfilling Digital Transformation for cities. 

For many civic organisations, the Mayor, Councillors, City Planners and Administrative Staff react to Smart City opportunities as if they sit outside their traditional local government role. However, the first principles of Digital Transformation require that a logical baseline of current capabilities should be established so that any initiatives are grounded in an understanding of the city’s ability to effectively evaluate them and deliver reliable solutions. 

Conclusion: Organisations in both the public and private sectors have been actively improving capability and implementing processes and frameworks to improve project delivery effectiveness over the past decade. Project management approaches such as Prince2 and PMBOK have been adopted to improve project management practitioner capability and equip project boards and project sponsors to understand their roles and responsibilities in supporting project delivery.

The Gateway Review Process was designed and implemented as part of assurance activities and was intended to be a supportive and proactive activity that highlighted areas that may impact on successful project delivery thus enabling organisations to take corrective action well in advance of major milestones.

However, based on a number of high profile project disasters in organisations that have implemented the proactive assurance approach of Gateway Reviews, there are some learnings that will assist other organisations to avoid project failure.

Conclusion: Deciding to stop investing in a business system is a decision no manager likes to make as it could have an adverse impact on staff, suppliers, clients, stakeholders and the Board. Before making the decision, management must assess all options and conclude they have no alternative but to act now and stop wasting scarce resources.

Conclusion: The high-risk and high-reward Agile approach for systems development enabled many organisations to respond quickly to changing management strategies and yielded significant productivity benefits, according to a 2015 survey1.

However the same survey found not everyone has been so successful, as lack of experience in using the Agile approach, and organisation resistance to change, have frustrated almost the same number of organisations.

Once IT and business management have decided that Agile is the right approach they must:

  • Champion and defend its use
  • Actively track progress and allocate extra resources to the project if justified
  • Provide a safe environment in which a retrospective review can be conducted
  • Widely disseminate the lessons learned from the review, including strategies that succeeded and failed, without attributing blame

Conclusion: To grow their business and deliver sought after online services, organisations must provide error free systems supported by robust IT infrastructure. When unable to deliver one or both of these consumers will seek other suppliers that provide better online services.

To meet consumer expectations online systems must be comprehensively tested and error free before making them publicly available, and operated on IT infrastructure that can be ramped-up when needed to meet consumer demands. The inability to provide quality services when required could put the organisation’s reputation at risk.

Conclusion: Project Management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are essential, but often overlooked. Project reviews completed during the life of a project should include appropriate stakeholder groups and focus areas. Reviews that are inclusive of the groups not directly involved in the delivery of project activities and objectives can assist in identifying communication and brand perception issues. A clear and concise review program applied to projects can increase the likelihood of project success and improve the organisation’s brand image.

Conclusion: Two-thirds of all ICT projects fail to deliver all of their intended benefits on schedule and within budget1. This results in ICT Executives spending a lot of time explaining why project schedules have slipped, why projects have been abandoned, or why goals and requirements have changed.

The Gateway Review Process(GRP) provides a well-proven and recognised approach to project assurance. Increasingly the process is being used as a basis for developing customised assurance processes in organisations across Australia.

Knowing when and how to customise the process is non-trivial andmust be based on lessons learned from application of the GRP. Many aspects of the GRP have been based on careful design and research – changing those aspects unwittingly will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the custom process created.

Conclusion: IT steering committees and project managers must ‘keep their eye on the ball’ and remain alert for indicators that a project under their remit might fail. Avoiding corrective action will impact on morale and increase costs and potentially delay the project’s implementation. By taking immediate corrective action the project might be saved, or if it is to be stopped, minimise losses.

Conclusion: CIOs today are often faced with deciding whether to buy integrated systems solutions and services from major vendors or buy best of breed solutions from multiple vendors and manage the integration project in-house.

Organisations that have engaged external services providers on a major scale and eroded their IT skills base typically find they have no option but to buy the integrated solution. Conversely those with specialist skills in-house and the need to develop their people, often find in-house systems integration solutions more attractive.

Conclusion: It is easy to sheet home the blame for IT project cost overruns to difficulties experienced in estimating work days required. Whilst estimating is difficult it can be converted from an art form into science by identifying the tasks required in detail and estimating the work days required for each one. Include the total in the business case.

Conclusion: Many organisations have IT steering committees that are considered to be ineffective due to a combination of poorly defined committee charters and ineffective leadership. Restructuring of the committees and resourcing them with appropriately skilled business executives can result in IT Steering Committees that add significant strategic value to their organisations e.g. by prioritising IT projects based on business need and risk.

Conclusion: Deciding whether major business solutions, or ICT enabled projects, should proceed to the next stage during a review is pivotal for sound governance.

When lip service is paid to the review process project failure may just be around the corner. This view was put forward by the UK National Audit Office, and was endorsed in the November 2006 Review of ICT Governance by Queensland Government, which stated that one of the three prerequisites to project success is ‘rigorous challenge and scrutiny of projects and programs at each stage of the life cycle’.

Conclusion: Immediately after the project Kick Off meetings, project managers find it tempting to hit the ground running and tackle tasks identified straight away to communicate a sense of urgency. However, without a comprehensive statement of requirements and having got consensus to them from stakeholders, the probability of design or programming rework is high.

Set out below is a process for capturing requirements and getting consensus to them from business managers. I have used the process successfully many times. It precedes, and must not be confused with, the JAD (Joint Application Design) activity.

Conclusion: Recently I was at a Christmas party with several 30 year IT Veterans. As usual a few war stories were shared. This paper contains two of the more bizarre stories. Unfortunately neither of these stories would exist if a formal peer review process had been in place in the organisations concerned.

IT departments should have some form of peer review for all initiatives and this should include operations, systems development, purchasing, communications, etc. Failure to implement a peer review process may result in your actions being recounted in war stories some time in the future.

Conclusion: Managers that fail to identify the benefits accruing from implementing an ERP will find it difficult to get senior managers to approve investment to upgrade to the next major release of the software.

Conclusion: In an ideal world the business case report recommending the organisation invest in a business solution (systems, business processes and workplace change) should act as the cornerstone on which the ensuing project(s) proceeds. If the report is coherent, well researched and presents a credible picture of the future, all stakeholders can use it to guide their actions.

While many organisations have templates of the typical business case report, compliance is no guarantee of quality.

Conclusion: Business managers, who sponsor major Business Solutions implementations, need to be identifying what they have to do to succeed and develop plans that will make success a reality. Focusing on the Right Things Starts with Astute Planning