Our readers will sometimes tell us that they are reluctant to do certain projects because they are too complex or disruptive. This raises the question, what makes these projects seem intimidating? You might say that they are too much work or that they require too many specialized resources, but this is true of many projects of any significance.
The real reason, I believe, that companies avoid certain projects is fear of the unknown factors that prevent them from envisioning the process for seeing those projects through. New technology or functionality, unpredictable interactions with the existing IT landscape, and in-house inexperience increase risk. Fortunately, that risk can be managed successfully, as our two case study subjects show in this issue.
Wyeth, a leading pharmaceuticals company, decided to upgrade its Web site from a self-contained marketing vehicle to an interactive forum for its customers. This meant providing public access to data in its SAP system using an interface, SAP NetWeaver Portal, with which it had no experience.
The risk of exposing internal data to the public through an unfamiliar medium using a new technology would have given some companies pause. Wyeth tackled the project through research, seeking outside expertise when needed, keeping close to the stakeholders, and developing a project plan that allowed the company to react appropriately to surprises. No less important, the company’s willingness to compete through innovation led to a can-do attitude.
Complexity is no stranger to Canada Post, which delivers millions of pieces of mail daily in the second-largest country in the world (in terms of land mass). As its SAP system grew, the company knew it had to find a way to manage upgrades, modifications, and software deployments in a way that minimized disruptions and maintained the integrity of the system.
Canada Post turned to its IT services company Innovapost, a joint venture with CGI Group, to come up with a managed release program. Through this program, Innovapost can group and execute initiatives in scheduled stages in a way that does not affect other systems. This has significantly reduced the risk of even the most sensitive projects, and Innovapost’s managed release program has gained the trust of users and management at Canada Post.
When that kind of trust exists in your systems and processes, a company is more willing to take on risky but competitively advantageous projects.