Creating White Swan Projects
When discussing a new project, the first thing to think about is what is the size, scope and complexity of the technology solution contemplated? The second thing to think about is what does the project give me? If the project has merit, the third thing to think about is how we can achieve the desired results in a “better, faster, cheaper” way than is being proposed.
I said thinking about because too often we go through an “ask and answer” discussion without having done thorough research and cognitive thinking before making a “go” decision on a project. Let’s call this the BFC (Better, Faster, Cheaper) Decision Tree.
Evaluating Risk and Cost
Ask yourself if you can absorb the risk and cost of the proposed project. When asked to support a project costing more than $1 million that will take 12+ months to complete, start the BFC Q&A session. If this project or any proposed project has business interest, help your company’s IT operation help you to evaluate the project by following these steps:
- Approve a funded 90-day pilot – not a proof of concept.
- Identify a discrete use case – not a full production solution.
- Engage the end-user community in the 90-day project with dedicated participation.
- Measure the outcomes of the 90-day project by extending pilot testing for another 30-60 days.
- If the pilot proves valuable to the business, put the pilot into production and look at an extension of the use case in a 30-/60-/90-day pilot or in production.
Piloting projects in this way may allow the company to test multiple technology-enabled business solutions for the price of one potentially pricey project, lower risk, and achieve higher financial outcomes.
Optimizing Costs and Opportunities while Minimizing Risk
All Black Swan projects are avoidable as stated above. By taking the BFC project approach, you can stage even longer-term projects in bite-sized pieces. If the initial project doesn’t prove itself, you can quickly and cheaply switch to another pilot initiative. The problem that companies face is that they have a large mix of legacy system anchors and desirable new solutions. In some ways, it is the chicken verses the egg discussion, but there are systematic ways to address both simultaneously.
Don’t take “we can’t do that” for an answer. Not all things are possible at the same time. I once had the president of an insurance company tell his senior staff, “we have 50 good ideas, but we can only choose five for next year.” With the BFC methodology, the five approved projects might turn into 10 in the upcoming year, optimizing costs and opportunities and minimizing risk to the company.
Critical Success Factors Play a Role in White Swan Projects
- Stick to the schedule, size, and scope
- Project management discipline is key
- Assemble the right team and ensure consistent up-team and down-team communications
- Abandon the Follow the Leader mindset
- Understand that technology solutions are business solutions
- Stage longer-term projects into bite-sized pieces
- Follow the BFC project evaluation principles – measure at every stage
By prioritizing risk and costs rather than following the leader, companies can take a systematic approach to utilizing technology to solve a problem or to disrupt the market in their favor.
Learn how NIIT Technologies can guide you through an analysis of your situation or an evaluation of a project plan before you make a large investment. Our focus isn’t just on a project or solution – making it successful for your organization is our priority.