( 8 min.) Summary: Industry and IT’s role has been changing rapidly. Most implementers are not keeping up with these changes. How can you avoid the traps set by consulting firms who are not adapting to today’s needs?
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Business is deep into an era of epic change. Industry reforms, new anti-corruption legislation, energy supply and price swings and major acquisitions are taking place in record numbers. One result: The market of large enterprises for which Maximo was originally intended has become nearly saturated with only modest growth remaining.
Many consulting implementers are stuck with out of date business models. These are the ones scrambling to win new business by expanding into unfamiliar market segments with service models they aren’t experienced with – instead of large multi-year, full team strategic implementations, they are fortunate to be hired for smaller efforts such as version and support upgrades, business/facility expansions and regulatory compliance updates. This may include adding or improving mobile capabilities. Some of these implementers are even bidding on staff augmentation roles – something they refused to consider in past years.
What does this have to do with the selection of contract consultants for your next Maximo project?
An implementer which is set up to staff several new deployments for multi-site enterprises will require a deep bench of salaried consultants with a wide breadth of skills needed to support multiple large projects. Now, with fewer of these “green field” implementations in the offing, these small to mid size firms are shedding their bench depth in order to reduce costs – through attrition and outright downsizing. Speculative consultant hiring typically is not a common practice at such a time.
Based on our observation and very recent experience going into early 2018, there are several prominent Maximo implementers who have reduced their full-time consulting staff by as much as 50% in a two year period. They are facing real challenges in filling project roles where specific skills are required.
As one would expect, these firms typically become top-heavy, laden with the cost of highly paid leaders who contribute little or no value add to the actual project work – and are often the very ones making the staff reduction decisions. It’s human nature – people just don’t tend to terminate their own employment. The cost of carrying them will be built into every quote they submit.
This leads directly to today’s commonly known shortage of experienced project managers. Implementer staff reductions have cut the more experienced leaders from payroll. Many are now attempting to serve project work with inexperienced and under-qualified project managers, either early in their careers or from business areas which are not related to the work at hand.
There is one common-sense way these small and mid-size firms can survive. Those who will be around for a while longer are adapting their business strategies and working models to be able to support a larger number of smaller “projects” – the version upgrades and enhancements existing Maximo users are considering. However, with the lack of experienced project leaders, they will need to adapt by increasing their PM skillset to go beyond that of a typical project record keeper. If not, these small efforts will continue to grow in scope and cost.
If you are among the group of Maximo users looking to upgrade, expand or enhance, here are a few timely considerations:
- If an implementer says they are fully staffed in all skillsets, verify this. Simple arithmetic says that this means that after carrying an idle bench, the implementer is not likely to be in the same financial position as they once were. The consultants with the most needed skills may be allocated to multiple projects or clients -which can leave your project competing for the time and availability needed to meet your schedule with the quality results you expect. It is advisable to insist that specific staff assignments are specified in writing as part of the contract.
- If the proposal price is more reasonable than you expected, be suspicious. Consider not-to-exceed pricing or milestone payments with penalties for unreasonable delays. If one of these requests is met with hesitation, it’s probably an indicator that they can’t really deliver the triple constraints at the price being proposed and they are trying to get the sale by undercutting the competition. Beware! If their bench depth isn’t there, schedule risk grows. If it is, protect yourself from change requests which will empty their bench and fill out the project staff in unanticipated ways with long delays.
- Apply extra caution when Agile, or other change-driven methods are proposed. Remember that under these methodologies, when either the clock or the budget runs out, the functionality being delivered will be limited. Agile can be greatly leveraged if everyone is on-board with the expectations. Can you live with pieces of functionality being eliminated?
- On several occasions, implementer’s sales staff have been heard to explain that they have a proven product methodology. Upon further examination, it was merely a relabeled waterfall process – useful for projects with little or no customization, pure OOB. While describing the methodology, it was further explained as being flexible and could include “some Agile aspects“. If you hear something like this, run away. Fast. Is there such a thing as Agile-Waterfall? Technically, yes – There are many hybrid Agile methods out there, however this is typically a compromise offer – put out there in case your organization has advanced beyond doing Waterfall projects.
- Insist on a work breakdown structure before agreeing on cost and schedule. Have the implementer show you how the needed consultants with appropriate skills will be available to complete the right tasks when needed. This protects you in two ways. First, it lets you discern if the implementer actually knows in advance the specific tasks which need to be performed. Next it allows you to open a conversation about how you may need to staff independently to fill gaps. No WBS up front?- Again, run away! Find someone who actually knows the specific list of required work tasks rather than engaging someone who will discover them along the way – and will inform you by means of a much dreaded chain of Project Change Requests.
- There was a time when a Maximo consultant had the skills to handle any task needed, and thus resources were much more interchangeable during the course of a project. These days it seems everyone is a specialist of one kind or another, so don’t be fooled by thinking an implementer’s having sufficient headcount reduces risk. Don’t easily allow the implementer to solve resource problems by swapping people into different roles and skillsets, or quality is likely to suffer.
- Finally, the first item to be sacrificed when a project becomes stressed is often the design documentation. If the cost seems low, verify the hours needed for creating these vital documents is included in scope, when they will be created, and by whom. If the developers are expected to create their own documents, verify that the proposed schedule clearly states how and when this will be done.
In any case, be ready to contribute consultants from your own resource pool to fill any gaps which will arise. Do you have a list of on-call consultants? Does your budget include contingency funds for the times you will need to call on them to keep the project on schedule?
Interested in this topic? Contact Clic Systems to learn more