Chad Ingles by Chad Ingles on April 18, 2013
At some point in the world of consulting it's important to cut the BS and get things done. After spending the last 5+ years as a consultant in increasingly senior and strategic roles I forgot how much I enjoy actually getting things done.
It's not that consulting is intrinsically BS, but there are times when you're heavily into the strategic meta-language and you wish you could just get things done.
I think it's time more organizations turned the corner from gigantic, monolithic, waterfall, organizationally dysfunctional processes and structures. At least in any technology-adjacent departments, but also in most other business areas as well. Technology trends and accompanying opportunities come and go faster than ever. It's important to get into market with a time-boxed commitment that allows for ongoing iteration than to build enormous monolithic corporate programs that almost always fail catastrophically.
In my experience any project that can't be delivered end-to-end in 3 months probably needs to be broken down into smaller projects or at least clearly delineated milestones. Anything longer than 3 months and the deadline is always so far away that all motivation to ship is lost. In a similar way any project over a nominal budget, let's say a few hundred thousand dollars, is likely too complex for one person to hold all of the moving parts in their mind at the same time. This also indicates a need to break down the project into more understandable components and stagger the implementation. Success begets success.
This all seems like common sense but many organizations are in a constant state of panic and latch on to a transformational program as a way to dig out from the accumulated weight of technical debt, a result of chronic underinvestment and underperformance.
The Long Wow vs. Big Bang
Source: Big Bang Theory (for #intranets)
Rather than viewing success as a big win we need to view success as a series of ongoing small steps executed over the long-term. At factor[e] we are working hard to convince organizations to view their initial investments as a down payment for future value. With planned incremental investment, that initial cost can be leveraged into increased value. It is important to consider the social world of business as well, after all:
To use round numbers consider a website with an initial investment of $10,000 and a plan to spend 10% of that each quarter for two years for a total investment of $18,000. This plan builds an initial platform and 8 release cycles to provide something new. Each of these cycles is an opportunity for new design, features, and social engagement and a chance to reach out to your target audience with what to them is likely a brand-new website. Like it or not, we are in a culture of the new and you better have something new to say and share on a regular basis.
Compare this to the traditional approach where you would spend your entire budget of $18,000 for the initial design and implementation. Now you have a site and for the next two years, while you can update it based on the system you've implemented, you essentially have one story to tell: "We have a new website!" with no opportunity to adjust course based on changing business needs over the next two years. I know which of these approaches I would take with my business.
This approach works for small and large initiatives. I've worked with many organizations that are tired of the huge spikes in costs when they need to replace antiquated systems. Rather than facing a $10 million program every 10 years that has a high chance of failure (whether measured by schedule, cost, or delivered capabilities) many have started to think about committing $1 million per year over ten years to deliver regular improvements. This way even a catastrophic failure of a particular set of functionality doesn't derail the entire program, there's always the next wave to adjust course.
The benefits of partnering with a company like factor[e] are much greater than simply hiring us to build a quick website. With our in-house creative design and deep technology talent we can build a roadmap with you that includes branding, web, print, marketing, physical design, mobile device apps, and even brand-new technology. We can do this over the long-term at a pace and budget that works for you. We can collaborate to help you build a better business.