Avoiding Entropy in Technology Projects
By Elizabeth English
Published May 20, 2015
Can disorder be avoided or at least reduced, after the consulting team leaves? We think so.
Entropy is defined as a lack of order or predictability, or, in this context, the natural tendency of things to go from a state of order to a state of disorder.
The exponential growth of technology has companies scrambling to move to new services with the hope that VOIP, or UC, or WebRTC, or the latest flavor of BYOD will solve their communications problems. In the old days the scramble had companies moving from Centrex to PBX, to private networks, to remote modules, to TEM packages ... well, you get the idea.
We often encounter clients who have had years of organic growth coupled with staff reductions and corporate restructuring. Their technology is outdated, and their ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) spend is growing year over year. Documentation, if available at all, is dated. And they are often under the impression that a quick fix of new technology will magically solve resource and budget problems. This type of thinking was as prevalent pre-divestiture as it is today.
In a recent discussion with a client about what happens when the technology project ends and our consulting team leaves, they wondered how long it would be before entropy took over and the carefully planned and implemented technology would fall into disorganization. How long would it be before they needed a consultant to take them through the process once again? Regardless of how much documentation and training is left behind, processes eventually become broken, documentation doesn't get maintained, and the client is back in the same boat.
When the engagement includes process re-engineering as part of a technology refresh, consultants can help design better processes. When the scope is limited to a specific project or technology, however, without examining the organization and its processes, this need may not get addressed. In cases where business process isn't in the scope of the project, there are still ways to guide clients through the change process and ensure the new technology
doesn't become an expensive exercise in MOS (more of the same).
While it is ultimately up to the client to ensure their internal processes and documentation make best use of the new technology after we, the consultants, leave, there are many ways during the engagement to influence both corporate structure and staff commitment to new methodology.
One of the most effective ways to influence the success of a project is to provide quality documentation throughout the project and at project closure. As consultants, we can and should provide high-quality documentation. This may not be enough, however, to ensure the structures we have created remain intact long term. By coaching a client's staff about where to find the data as well as how and why to maintain it, we can influence the organization in a positive way for the years that follow the project.
Another tactic proven to be effective in creating staff "buy-in," is to educate a client's team members at all levels throughout the project. Making client education a priority improves staff commitment to both short- and long-term success of the project. Highlighting best practices and explaining why particular technologies were chosen creates cross-organizational staff member advocates for the new system. Enlisting active participation from all staff levels during the decision-making process also improves confidence, commitment and ability to implement and maintain new technologies.
By maintaining good processes and documentation, engaging staff commitment, and educating team members at all levels, the client is then assured that when the next technology refresh comes around, their focus can be on planning and implementing the next generation, rather than cleaning up those things which have fallen into a state of entropy.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.