By TopDown Team
January 24th, 2011
I spend most of my time these days on engagements with multi-national organizations that, of course, are implementing a global enterprise performance management system. One very common challenge is how to include system administrators from other regions, continents, and time zones. At TopDown we stress knowledge sharing by having our clients work alongside our consultants and build in-house expertise from day one. Encouraging a client’s future system admins to put hands on keyboards with our consultant-experts is a time-tested way to ensure your firm will be self-sufficient after go-live. Though, how do we accomplish this, say, if the system administrators are on different continents? Along with this, clients are also very keen to carefully manage travel budgets and having a large team traveling in every week can be an expensive proposition, approximating 15-20% in addition to the consulting fees.
In several engagements we have encountered this issue and found that available technologies are quite effective for fostering communication between far-flung team members. During an EPM development cycle, frequent communication and validation of the ongoing build activities are extremely important to a successful build. The lifecycle of a project has different core team communication needs. The requirements and design sessions are best done in person. With a global implementation, these sessions might be in a central location, with the subject matter experts flying in for sessions, or by having the core team travel to key regions for requirements sessions. Design is more likely done with team members working in close proximity to mock up items for validation by SMEs. Once the design is complete, the build phase is going to allow the core team members to divide up the tasks and work independently.
The project manager coordinates the build phase, but the Architect, or technical team lead, is the person deciding the task assignments. Client administrators who are new to the Oracle/Hyperion suite will need some handholding to gain the knowledge and confidence in the tool to complete their tasks. Online live sessions (with tools such as Webex, Microsoft Live meeting, or other tools) provides a very effective instruction medium. Instant messaging is very effective for quick questions, or direction. SharePoint or other collaboration sites provides a central location for storage of documents and work product for access by all team members. A closely managed project plan and regular conference calls are the backbone of remote collaboration and development and ensure regular touch points by the entire team. Periodic, perhaps quarterly, onsite meetings are important for occasional review of overall team progress and in case of a need for redirection of team. In person meetings and downtime is also important to build team relationships.
By the time user acceptance testing arrives, a client’s system administrators have built substantial skills in their EPM products and forged relationships within the organization that will help ensure self-sufficiency after go-live and also reduce need for consultants on future efforts to make modifications to the system. In past engagements, we also have been able to reduce travel expenses, with one recent client experiencing travel costs of less than 8% of consulting fees, in contrast to 15-20% of consulting fees on a normal engagement. Effective team dynamics, administrator learning by having to do without having the consultants in the next cube, yet readily available if necessary, and a significant cost savings; definitely a strategy worth considering on your next EPM engagement.