John Staley Associates Limited
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We offer a wide range of business systems management services

Strategic Planning

Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to remain competitive and gain a sustainable competitive advantage. The global economy, growth of the internet and the increased complexity of information technology has made it vital that companies implement successful IT strategies that match the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the business.

We understand these IT strategy issues and assist companies in determining their current strategic situation with regard to IT and help them develop new IT strategies allowing technology to provide real sustainable strategic advantages to the company.

A successful IT Strategy aligns the IT and business strategies to effectively allocate resources and achieve improved value on IT investments. Key areas of business improvement include:-

  • Competitive Advantage - utilising technology to provide a real competitive advantage over the competition, through a successful IT Strategy.
  • Improve Efficiency and Productivity - utilising technology through a successful IT Strategy can provide real sustainable improvements in efficiency and productivity.
  • Compliance with Corporate Legislation - with the introduction of new compliance requirements it is essential for companies to ensure that they are compliant with all the relevant legislation.

Requirements Analysis and Definition

Clear, precise requirements are essential if a successful solution is to be achieved. It is, therefore, vital that:-

  • Sufficient time is spent at the start of the project on understanding the objectives, deliverables and scope of the project.
  • Any assumptions are identified and critically evaluated to determine both the likely end-user benefits and risks to the project.
  • An agreed definition is put in place which encompasses both the specific functions or user benefits it provides and the overall business problem it is expected to solve.

It's surprising how many organisations commence programmes of change without really defining their requirements. We can provide extensive business analysis skills to help organisations define their requirements and use the outcomes to suggest alternative ways of achieving the objective. Equally, we can undertake detailed technical analysis, including data quality and migration.

Solution Identification and Assessment

Whilst many projects involve implementing new technology or introducing new processes, successful business change is fundamentally about people. People can be unpredictable and irrational. They may want things to be different, but draw comfort from the way things are, and seek to protect the status quo when challenged by some new initiative.

If the change being considered is superficial or little more than a PR exercise, staff and customers will see through it quickly, and any positive effect will be short-lived. We can provide an independent sounding board and challenges to change plans.

System Selection

Investing in a new ERP system is one of the most significant investments in terms of time and money a company can make, by it nature a new ERP systems will have an impact on every part of the business, and in many cases can result in failure. We can help with this process and ensure that any new system will meet the current and future requirements of the business.

We are completely independent of any ERP or Software vendor and therefore are perfectly placed to ensure that the most appropriate system is selected to meet the exact requirements of the business. We cut through the sales talk and get to the heart of a solution's functionality.

Support for implementation of new applications

The lifecycle of an ERP implementation begins with the understanding of the critical goals and objectives of the enterprise in streamlining the business processes which are being planned.

As the project progresses we will enter a prototype based session with the users which ought to involve the actual business enterprise data in a test environment to simulate the ERP package software running the business. This implies the loading of actual operational data such as bills-of-materials, routings, business partners, customers, suppliers, etc. into a test environment for simulation with the ERP software.

Normally, a popular approach before ERP implementation is to have a trial run of the pre-defined business processes through the new system in a simulated environment using the actual data of the business enterprise. This process is often referred to as the Conference Room Pilot (CRP) and is normally designed to be the final verification that the new system is set-up correctly to function in the live business environment.

Other activities usually undertaken include :-

  • Migration of Historical Data
  • Design of Routines & Workarounds
  • End-User Training
  • System Walk-Through
  • Go Live
  • Post Implementation Support

The development, testing and implementation will almost certainly involve both internal users and external suppliers and consultants. We can manage and make effective use of all of these resources.

Post Implementation Review

The project may have been sold to the Board on the basis of benefit claims. But were these claims realistic, are they being achieved in reality? A Post Implementation Review (PIR) will answer those questions.

Assessing business benefits, measuring running/maintenance costs and comparing original claimed benefits and costs to actual benefits and costs can require financial, business and IT expertise. So it can be difficult and sometimes time consuming to do a Post Implementation Review properly. Due to the pressure on resources at project implementation (especially if the project is running late) it is a frequent scenario that no PIR is undertaken and the actual implementation is seen as the completion of the project. But what of the costs of the post-cut-over IT support?

Is a Post Implementation Review worth doing? If it means better investment decisions in the future, yes. For example, some organisations do not include user time as a cost in IT projects and get a nasty shock when the PIR reveals the true cost of user time - business disruption, backfills, work-arounds, etc. Had such costs been included in the business case at the outset maybe it would have been obvious the project should not have gone ahead.

Project Management

We are experienced at managing the often complex relationships between internal departments and multiple external suppliers to ensure that all contributors understand their role and can share in success.

In many situations delivery requires the building of internal consensus and the successful management of third parties as well as in-house teams. There is no substitute in situations like this, for experience. Real, hands-on, "been-there-done-that" experience.

Successful organisations depend on the delivery of projects and programs – either as part of their delivery business or to achieve a greater vision. Getting programme and project management wrong often means poor performance, wasted investment and unrealised ambition. Many organisations struggle to get it right. Getting it right relies on recognising that no two businesses are the same. It is not simply a matter of more process or methodology – you have to tune your approach to the organisation and its ambition.

Project management includes developing a project plan, which includes:-

  • Defining project goals and objectives
  • Specifying tasks or how goals will be achieved
  • What resources are needed,
  • Associating budgets and timelines for completion

It also includes implementing the project plan, along with careful controls to stay on the "critical path", that is, to ensure the plan is being managed according to plan. Project management usually follows major phases (with various titles for these phases), including feasibility study, project planning, implementation, evaluation and support/maintenance.

Interim Management

Your company may be planning a major initiative - such as a CRM system, an IT or e-commerce programme or the implementation of a new HR strategy - which calls for specialist skills not readily available in-house.

You may need temporary cover for a key executive away for some time due to long-term illness, a sabbatical or maternity leave.

Your organisation may be embarking on a major programme of cultural change and needs a change manager to champion the cause and mentor existing management throughout the implementation.

Troubleshooting difficult projects

Computer projects fail when they do not meet the following criteria for success:

  • It is delivered on time.
  • It is on or under budget.
  • The system works as required.

Only a few projects achieve all three. Many more are delivered which fail on one or more of these criteria, and a substantial number are cancelled having failed badly.

So what are the key factors for success? Organisations and individuals have studied a number of projects that have both succeeded and failed and some common factors emerge. A key finding is that there is no one overriding factor that causes project failure. A number of factors are involved in any particular project failure, some of which interact with each other. Here are some of the most important reasons for failure.

Lack of User Involvement

Lack of user involvement has proved fatal for many projects. Without user involvement nobody in the business feels committed to a system, and users can even be hostile to it.

Long or Unrealistic Time Scales

Long time scales for a project have led to systems being delivered for products and services no longer in use by an organisation.

Poor or No Requirements

Many projects have high level, vague, and generally unhelpful requirements. This has led to cases where the developers, having no input from the users, build what they believe is needed, without having any real knowledge of the business.

Scope Creep

Scope is the overall view of what a system will deliver. Scope creep is the insidious growth in the scale of a system during the life of a project. As an example for a system which will hold customer records, it is then decided it will also deal with customer bills, then these bills will be provided on the Internet, and so on and so forth.

No Change Control System

Despite everything businesses change, and change is happening at a faster rate then ever before. So it is not realistic to expect no change in requirements while a system is being built. However uncontrolled changes play havoc with a system under development and have caused many project failures.

Poor Testing

The developers will do a great deal of testing during development, but eventually the users must run acceptance tests to see if the system meets the business requirements. However acceptance testing often fails to catch many faults before a system goes live.

These six factors are not the only ones that affect the success or failure of a project. For example, planned resources may not be available due to sickness, the original estimates may have been too optimistic or business circumstances change. The longer the project the more likely any (or all) of these factors will have an impact.

It is vital to identify any risks to a successful project as early as possible so that any issues can be rectified quickly. By taking an objective look at the initial project objectives, project plan and progress so far we can help you to highlight any problem areas and put in place remedial actions.

Our experience enables us to help you re-assess the situation and get your projects back on track.