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Do you have a feasible project?

Is your project feasible?

The best way to find out whether your project is feasible is to complete a Feasibility Study. This process helps you gain confidence that the solution you need to build can be implemented on time and under budget. So here’s how to do it in 5 simple steps…
Completing a Feasibility Study
A Feasibility Study needs to be completed as early in the Project Life Cycle as possible. The best time to complete it is when you have identified a range of different alternative solutions and you need to know which solution is the most feasible to implement. Here’s how to do it…
Step 1: Research the Business Drivers
In most cases, your project is being driven by a problem in the business. These problems are called “business drivers” and you need to have a clear understanding of what they are, as part of your Feasibility Study.
For instance, the business driver might be that an IT system is outdated and is causing customer complaints, or that two businesses need to merge because of an acquisition. Regardless of the business driver, you need to get to the bottom of it so you fully understand the reasons why the project has been kicked off.
Find out why the business driver is important to the business, and why it’s critical that the project delivers a solution to it within a specified timeframe. Then find out what the impact will be to the business, if the project slips.
Step 2: Confirm the Alternative Solutions
Now you have a clear understanding of the business problem that the project addresses, you need to understand the alternative solutions available.
If it’s an IT system that is outdated, then your alternative solutions might include redeveloping the existing system, replacing it or merging it with another system.
Only with a clear understanding of the alternative solutions to the business problem, can you progress with the Feasibility Study.
Step 3: Determine the Feasibility
You now need to identify the feasibility of each solution. The question to ask of each alternative solution is “can we deliver it on time and under budget?”
To answer this question, you need to use a variety of methods to assess the feasibility of each solution. Here are some examples of ways you can assess feasibility:

  • Research: Perform online research to see if other companies have implemented the same solutions and how they got on.
  • Prototyping: Identify the part of the solution that has the highest risk, and then build a sample of it to see if it’s possible to create.
  • Time-boxing: Complete some of the tasks in your project plan and measure how long it took vs. planned. If you delivered it on time, then you know that your planning is quite accurate.

Step 4: Choose a Preferred Solution
With the feasibility of each alternative solution known, the next step is to select a preferred solution to be delivered by your project. Choose the solution that; is most feasible to implement, has the lowest risk, and you have the highest confidence of delivering.
You’ve now chosen a solution to a known business problem, and you have a high degree of confidence that you can deliver that solution on time and under budget, as part of the project.
Step 5:
It’s now time to take your chosen solution and reassess its feasibility at a lower level. List all of the tasks that are needed to complete the solution. Then run those tasks by your team to see how long they think it will take to complete them. Add all of the tasks and timeframes to a project plan to see if you can do it all within the project deadline. Then ask your team to identify the highest risk tasks and get them to investigate them further to check that they are achievable. Use the techniques in Step 3 to give you a very high degree of confidence that it’s practically achievable. Then document all of the results in a Feasibility Study.

After completing these 5 steps, get your Feasibility Study approved by your manager so that everyone in the project team has a high degree of confidence that the project can deliver successfully.

How to start off a successful outsource project

How to start off a successful outsource project

1.0 Know what you want

There must be clear scoping of the demand and what is being put to the market. The objectives for the outsourcing must be consistent and reasonable – cost reduction, as an aim together with increase service may be inconsistent. Sign off internally why you are doing this and agree what is driving the whole process – this is important from the vendors perspective as well. If the vendor knows that cost reduction or technology refresh are key objectives the response can be tailored to your precise needs. Furthermore, objectives can change over time and the original case for an Outsource can be undermined by events. Revisiting the rationale you agreed internally is an important task during the process – don’t be driven by the running train take a time out to check you still need to do this.

2.0 Put in place a clear process.

Decide whether you are asking for a sole source versus competitive bid from the market. Sole sourcing is usually suggested (particularly by the vendor) if there is a history with the supplier and there is a time constraint – but there are significant negatives. Loss of leverage, not being able to compare alternatives, less aggressive pricing to name but three – and a sole source could have high impacts such as the legitimacy of the deal. Last but not least, the process may actually take longer as there is no time pressure that comes from a competitive environment.

In a competitive bid position cost savings have a better chance of being realised and new suppliers can come with more innovative proposals than the in-house incumbent – at least in principle. The process can actually be quicker as the client can drive the competitive process – by a strict time based approach to the process for example. But on the other hand competitive bidding is more resource intensive, for the supplier as well as the client, so make sure you resource well.

Be precise, not prescriptive, comprehensive but concise in the layout – focus on key objectives. We need the ‘what’ not the how – avoid laying down all sorts of preconditions about how the service is to be delivered – that’s the suppliers job in the proposal. I have seen in several RFP’ s detailed specifications of what packages to use and how precisely the service is to be delivered – effectively closing off all innovative solutions that may have been available from the vendor. Also specific demands will drive up the cost – the vendor may be able to offer off-the-shelf solutions that will work just as well as your specific demands but at very favourable rates.

A request for informartion (RFI) is a high-level document inviting a general response and can be used as a test for possible solutions and to pre-select candidates for the bid. Usually there is no bid price given by the suppliers – nor should we expect too much detail here. An request for proposal (RFP) invites a formal response and takes longer for the vendor and the customer to evaluate. In a large bid this cost can come to millions of dollars so make sure before you issue a RFP you really mean to go ahead. Ensure you are being realistic in your demands and take care that the quality and clarity in the RFP promotes conformance in the proposals received.

3.0 Manage the Communication Channels

In negotiation avoid shortcuts and set specific goals – and ensure they are delivered. Evaluate, clarify and frame negotiations to keep competition alive. Document all discussions and carry out frequent self-assessment. Use a term sheet as this helps drive and track the discussion and allows apples to apples comparison – over time the term sheet can evolve into a contract so it is well worth the effort to create one.

Manage the up and down communication channels carefully. Make sure no seniors speak to vendors and control vendor access to senior management carefully. Some vendors are good at getting around the formal process to the senior management and exploiting this access to short-circuit the tender process. We all know of ‘golf course’ deals that cut through a bid process and enable vendors to return to the customer team informing them they ‘know’ the requirements of senior management. Most golf course deals end in disaster so should be avoided like the plague.

Keep talking to vendors and meet frequently to discuss the proposals – the more open and interactive the better the eventual outcome will be.

4.0 Cover the Details

First of all vendors to this for a living – often the vendor sales team have been doing this for years and when this is done will move onto the next. The customer side on the other hand may have not done this before or at least the team carrying out the supplier proposal evaluation may be completely new compared to the last time the outsource process was done. Also some of the customer team will have a day job to contend with – don’t forget this (or holidays etc.) and plan capacities well. Plan well, resource well and set realistic time scales – time pressure can act in the vendor’s favour and allow skipping of important details.

Never let issues that should be solved at negotiation drift into ‘we will solve this later’ discussions. They never are and these can be a source of major conflict later. A trade union official some time ago told me: ‘It is better for the negotiation to break down rather than the agreement’. All-important details must be cleared before signing a contract.

Partnership rhetoric will appear at some stage in the discussions from the vendor side. Partnership usually means giving all the risks to the vendor from the customer side or closing out competition from the vendor side (sole sourcing). Partnership can be invoked to get over tricky points and put them off until later stages or to close out competition. Partnership should be based on performance and strict business principles not waffle. I know it is often said we can handle the things we forgot later in a change process – I have personally never found this to be free of major problems and cost – so beware of this.

Final point maximum gain minimum vendor pain during the proposal stage – and remember to ask yourself what you are looking for from outsourcing until you know what it is!

Royston

HR Operational Improvement – managing your care staff and delivering better care

Delivering to the NHS effective workforce planning, scheduling and establishment.

The need to effectively manage human capital is placing increased demands on the human resources team in every enterprise. Especially in those organisations managing diverse highly skilled workforces.

  • Are you over-budgeting on agency staff spends?
  • Never totally sure which people will be available for shifts?
  • Spending too much time and money on scheduling?
  • Subject to shutting down facilities due to lack of staff?

These are just some of the issues we have seen within many major institutions including the NHS in the UK. In our experience the staffing and budget issues within many NHS trusts is at least partially due to the difficulties of workforce planning and control. It is necessary in these cases to develop an assessment process that will identify cost improvements and recommend changes in organization and processes that will improve workforce utilisation. You are then able with software providers to implement solutions that deliver the benefits we have found.

To-Dos

  • Scoping the value – the building of hypotheses and identification of improvement areas.
  • Strategic operations review – validation of hypotheses and detailing of the benefits and solutions.
  • Benefit delivery – actions and programmes to deliver the benefits.

Benefits include:

  • Increased understanding and control of working practices and the precise reasons for over-spend at the ward or unit level.
  • Reductions in agency nurse spend by efficient and transparent scheduling of core staff and management of agency staff resource.
  • Reduction in the time taken to schedule and increased staff retention through ability to manage and respond to staff preferences.
  • Reduced training and recruitment spend through ability to target recruitment and training needs ahead of time.
  • A clear establishment procedure

To confirm the potential for substantive improvements the initial two-day scoping should be asked for from suppliers – carried out a non-cost to enable you to assess whether there is indeed scope for improvement and if the consultants are up the job and understand your business. If the answer is negative, you will still have the benefit of a report that outlines how efficiently your operation is organized!

What is a Statement of Work (SOW)

What is a Statement of Work

A Statement of Work (SOW) is a companion document to the services agreement that consists of a narrative description of the products or services to be supplied. A statement of work is a necessity as it refines the understanding between the parties as to what must be delivered and the terms and conditions to be applied. A Statement of Work is in effect a contract between the parties for the service delivery or of a commercial understanding of how to work together in a joint activity with a client.

The typical objectives of the statement of work are to enable the contractor to clearly understand the requirements and needs of the customer organization. You wouldn’t enter into a contract with a builder to make over your house on a smile and a handshake (I hope) and neither should you enter into a commercial relations to delivery a multimillion dollar project for a website development contract either. To be clear on this don’t trust a handshake or a verbal promise always document your understanding – it is far better to spend time arguing about what must be done before the work has started. If you’ve taken the proper steps to write a thorough statement of work then no surprises should occur on delivery when what was ordered is actually seen for the first time.

The Statement of Work spells out the scope of work to be done, the deliverables, the responsibilities of each party, and any fees for services to be rendered. The SOW is created once a client feels comfortable and ready to proceed with the project or activity and documents the joint understanding of what must be achieved at each stage. The statement of work (SOW) is a management product that formally documents the products to be delivered and the associated work units to be performed under the contract.

Typical contents are:

  • Aim and objectives of the activity
  • The scope of the activity and any limitations
  • Assumptions and constraints
  • Project plan and approach
  • Governance and review points including the project management process to be used to report progress
  • Deliverables to be produced including any dependencies
  • Due dates for deliverables
  • How deliverables are approved and what quality procedures are in place.
  • The commercial considerations

Requirement of a good Statement of Work

Normally a statement of work is employed when a simpler needs requirement document cannot be used and it must describe what must be accomplished in terms of the client’s requirements. Stakeholder needs, wants, and expectations are also analyzed and evaluated before being converted into requirements. There may be items such as, reporting requirements, commercial restrictions, market research, anti-competition agreements, geographic scope etc. that must be included. It must outline all applicable quality systems including quality review processes and acceptance procedures to be used, as well as the definition of the type and extent of control that is to be exercised on subcontractors should these prove necessary. On this latter point a sub-contractor must sign up to the overall conditions and the party concerned must warrant that this is the case. Overall a SOW identifies the requirements to be satisfied not the way they must be achieved leaving the parties free to use their own expertise and skill to achieve the desired result.

Creating a statement of work is not an easy task and can be time consuming but is well worth the effort. Do not trust to partner rhetoric that suggests leaving the difficult points to later never rely on such terms ‘spirit of agreement’ – it always ends in trouble. If a statement of work is too ambiguous, it can lead to misinterpretation and future problems and a major falling out. The failure write down expectations and then to properly execute a SOW is often the reason parties end up in a dispute and the major reason why this process must be well thought through and executed.

Quality assurance policy – this is a high level statement of aims and objectives

An assurance policy is a high level statement of objectives and approaches that are further worked out in the Quality Plan – shown here in this post is an example of the main clauses in the policy statement typically signed off by senior management.

AnyCo’s Management Ltd.’s quality assurance policy is based on principles and values provided for in the Company Mission, strategy and goals.
Quality Management System (QMS) creation is a major strategic direction of the business activities. The QMS is regarded as a useful tool for creation and management of effective business processes. The system formation will result in provision of services of consistently high quality, fully meeting customers’ expectations.

The company pursues the following goals in the field of quality assurance:
1. Strict compliance of the company’s services with international, national, and corporate standards and requirements.
2. Professional and technical level of the services must correspond to or exceed that of the leading enterprises and companies operating in the UK market.
3. Responsibility to customers for the quality of the services rendered.
4. Cost efficiency of the services as compared with other companies operating in the market.
5. Development and implementation of new services that fully satisfy our customers’ needs.
6. Continuous monitoring of complaints and claims from customers, and aim to maintain these at zero.
7. Positioning of the company as employing professional staff educated to at least Masters level, and providing services of high quality.

The strategy for achieving the goals is the following:
1. Focus on the process management model and continuous improvement of the company services (in accordance with the market requirements).
2. The QMS development, implementation, and maintenance in conformity with ISO 9001 international standards. Certification to 9001 will be applied for by 2008.
3. Satisfaction of customers’ requirements to all services. Fulfilment of the customers’ requirements within the shortest periods of time, ensuring highest quality. The services can be provided under Service Level Agreements (SLA).
4. Understanding of the customer needs, their present and future specific requirements.
5. Continuous cooperation with customers in order to understand their needs.
6. Transparency – customers obtain access to information on the quality of the services.
7. Priority of quality issues in “personnel – technology – organization” chain.
8. Strict quality assurance procedures at all stages of the services life cycle, well-defined personnel responsibility for quality assurance.
9. Primary focus on prevention of a possible decrease in quality rather than on measures to restore the quality level.
10. Consistent training of all personnel in the sphere of quality, each employee’s participation in services improvement, rewards for quality improvement.