Delivering to Specification v Implementation
Delivery to specification and effective implementation are not the same thing.
It is often believed that if a project delivers ‘to specification’ it can be successful. However, from a business perspective this is totally insufficient. Whatever is delivered ‘to specification’ has to also be effectively implemented to enable project success.
Delivery V Implementation
Imagine developing a car and producing all 2000 parts ‘to specification’. To the owner, having 2000 parts is not of much use; it is only when they are assembled and tuned that they have a car they can drive. However, from those 2000 parts, there can be several ways they can be assembled and tuned that will make or break their usefulness and effectiveness.
The BMW 760 and Rolls Royce Ghost are largely assembled from the same parts – but are seen as two very different cars.
Imagine that you want a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a large family room and patio in a certain geographic location. On any weekend there may be 10 houses for sale that fit this specification. However, on inspection you may not want to live in any of them. They are the wrong design, wrong ambience, wrong street, wrong price…and so on. These are the implementation factors that determine if you want the house that is ‘to specification’.
Implementation translates what is delivered into how it is delivered and can be used.
Not Change Management
And, no, effective implementation is not just a euphemism for ‘change management’. The way change management is currently practiced it is at best a subset of effective implementation.
When talking to the developer of a major high-rise apartment block, he was quite clear at the outset what he wanted, his desired ambience, the price point he was aiming for, the quality of finish he needed, the support areas that would be expected at that price, and so on. He started from day-1 with a clear idea of how he wanted his high-rise to be implemented. This then drove the specification and the builder. He was not engaged in ‘change management’.
Different Measures of Success
Delivering ‘to specification’ will see ‘success’ as
The system is installed, working to its functional specification, the staff know how to use it, the systems maintenance group knows how to maintain it.
‘Effective implementation’ will see ‘success’ as
The system is installed, working to its functional specification, the staff know how to use it, the systems maintenance group knows how to maintain it, it is integrated into the end-to-end business process—it is working effectively in situ.
Notice these two definitions of success have moved from ‘it works’ to ‘it is integrated into the end-to-end business process’.(For a complete description of the seven different levels of 'success' click here.)
The Impacts of ‘Delivering’ Versus ‘Implementing’
When projects are not effectively implemented, the performance results can be disastrous.
When this project was implemented the transactions worked exactly as specified. However, the non-transaction workload went up, the staff numbers went up (when they were planned to go down) and the staff members were put under immense pressure and many quit. The manager of the business area involved commented that, “They did not take into consideration the end-to-end process, they just focused on the system aspects.” This is an illustration of delivering ‘to specification’ while implementing highly ineffectively.
How you want to implement needs to drive the specification. When designing the B2B system’s solution, how the end-to-end process would work should have been part of the design.
Start With the End Results Defined
You can solve this by defining in clear, specific and measurable terms the desired business outcomes to be achieved. These highly descriptive but specific definitions of what the future state will be in the business after the end of the project when everything is working just right then need to become the focal point for every aspect of the project. These outcomes were captured in the developer’s clear idea of what he wanted from his high-rise building.
Then you identify all of the changes required to move the organization from its current state to this future state. Most of these changes will be executed by the project team, with the rest executed by the business. But now all of the changes, including to the non-system processes and other factors that were deemed irrelevant by the B2B project team, will be identified.
This is how you shift from ‘delivering to specification’ to ‘effective implementation’ to reap the desired rewards.
The respective roles of ‘to specification’ and ‘effective implementation’ are described in our new book, “Why your measures of success are destroying your projects”. Feel free to send this link to your friends and colleagues to help them stop destroying their projects.