August 2016

Are Your Suppliers Happy?

Cartoon showing conflict between supplier and buyer. Buyer "Just do it!". Supplier "Wow, they're 6 months behind on their invoices & now they want a favour"It is common for organisations to set a range of Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are used to ensure that progress is being made towards the appropriate strategic objectives.  Often a ‘balanced business scorecard’ is created, to ensure that different aspects of organisational success are considered—with the classic scorecard considering Finance, Customer, Internal Business Process and Learning & Growth (or innovation).   It is crucial that organisations ensure that their CSFs and KPIs are well defined and well balanced.  Measuring the wrong thing often leads to unexpected outcomes and behaviours.


The balanced business scorecard can be used at a project level too, in order to define the required business outcomes that the project is driving for.   This can be a powerful tool to validate that there is clear alignment with the overall organisational strategy and direction.  It also ensures that everyone is on the ‘same page’ with regards to why the project is being initiated in the first place.


However—whilst organisations (quite rightly) focus on measuring success in terms of financial outcomes, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, innovation and so forth—we rarely discuss supplier satisfaction.  Yet this, when considered alongside a range of other measures and metrics,  can be an extremely illuminating metric that can help drive holistic business improvement.


Considering The Whole Ecosystem 

What Projects Could Learn From Aviation (Part 2): A Contingency Plan Isn’t A Sign Of Weakness

Cartoon: Passengers in airplane. Over radio pilot says "We're skipping the safety demo as we're running late and we don't plan to crash" Working on projects can be a tricky endeavour at times.  As business analysts, we are often balancing the perspectives of multiple stakeholders whilst also working within strict constraints of time or budget.  We collaborate and innovate to help ensure our projects and initiatives deliver solutions that enable value to be delivered within our organisations and enterprises.


Yet things rarely seem to go smoothly.  So many things can go wrong in projects—perhaps a process or system is far more complex than we anticipated.  Or perhaps an external environmental factor (such as a law) changes and has a knock-on impact.   If we are working on an experimental or cutting-edge project then the risk might be very high indeed.  We may sometimes be pioneers, travelling through unchartered territories, and we might not even be able to predict what the risks are (let alone mitigate against them!).


In situations like these, it is valuable to consider contingency planning.   In doing so we ask questions like “What do we do if something so unexpected and so disruptive happens that the project is no longer viable?”.    Yet the very idea of contingency planning is seemingly controversial.     I recently saw a very interesting discussion on an online forum, and a view was expressed by a number of participants which I have summarised below:


“We shouldn’t ever think or even talk about contingency planning, definitely not on large scale radical projects.  Success is the only acceptable option.  If we let people know there’s a ‘Plan B’ they won’t buy into ‘Plan A’ and we’ll never succeed as they bale out too early.   Set out to succeed, or don’t set out at all!”