Jason Jeffrey (or JJ as the rest of the world knows him) understands a lot about project management. After 23 years in the British Army as a commissioned officer gaining a wealth of planning, leadership and commissioning skills, he has spent over a decade making sure that projects of all kinds are delivered on time and on budget.
Recently he worked closely with Red Olive at a large insurance firm that was looking to replace its aging, end-of-life data warehouse with a new cloud-based solution. As part of this, Red Olive implemented a solution that automated the process of providing high-quality data to decision makers.
“Red Olive didn’t come in with a hard sell,” says JJ. “The team there concentrated on the value they could add to the project. They came up with many helpful suggestions, outlining the pros and cons of different solutions to make the decisions easier for us.
“With some of the other data consultancies I have worked with, the A-team come in to present during the sales process, but the C-team turn up when it is time to do the actual work. That did not happen with Red Olive. What you saw was what you got. There isn’t a large bureaucracy to work your way through. The Red Olive team is very nimble, adjusting its approach quickly when the assumptions that underpin the project change.”
Managing successful projects
What is the secret to making sure large projects like this run smoothly? “Getting the right stakeholders onboard is incredibly important,” says JJ. “Everyone involved needs to understand the scope of the project, the business case for it and how you are going to get it done on time.
“Once everyone is on board, you need to make sure they are communicating effectively, both with each other, with their teams and up and down the organisation. In a large organisation, it is particularly important that the information about the project is cascaded up and down to relevant people in the organisation chart, so that everyone who has input into the project knows what its aims are and what they need to do to make it a success.
“When migrating reports from one system to another, it is vital to identify the owners of the existing reports. There could be hundreds or even thousands of reports that were created for a particular use that are no longer needed as the people involved have left the business, or the commercial environment has changed.
“Sometimes people are reluctant to make a decision about the future of a report, just in case its removal ends up having unintended consequences, so it is important to have a senior figure involved in the project who can make those decisions. You can also use this process to identify similar reports that can be combined.
Checking project assumptions
“The final thing is to keep revisiting your assumptions. You might start a migration project assuming that there are a certain number of reports to move over, and that a certain percentage of those are simple and the rest are complex.
“When you start the migration, if you find there are more reports overall and a large percentage of them are more complex than initially thought, then it is time to re-visit the timeline and talk to the stakeholders about scaling back the work or pushing the deadline further out.
“I am pleased to say that Red Olive planned its project in an agile and transparent manner, so when the insurance firm restructured, it was able to adapt quickly as the facts on the ground changed.”