Saturday, October 14, 2017

The seven stage model for developing enhancements

My previous DBA post proposed the following framework for developing enhancements:

  1. Identify a misfit.
  2. Determine which stakeholders would gain from resolving this misfit: there will always be one group of stakeholders who benefit whilst entering data, but there should also be at least one group of stakeholders who benefit from retrieving improved data.
  3. Propose a solution which benefits the maximum number of stakeholders. The solution should consider dimensions such as improved data visibility, savings in user time and direct monetary savings.
  4. Enlist the support of all stakeholders connected to the enhancement.
  5. Implement the enhancement.
  6. Train the stakeholders in the use of the enhancement (in both the input and output stages).
  7. Evaluate the benefits obtained after the event with respect to those stated in stage 3.
I included this framework in my research proposal, writing This model will henceforth be known as the 'seven stage model for developing enhancements', aka SSMDE. After stage 7, evaluation, there are three options, depending on the evaluation: the enhancement may either be put into use, discarded or refined (returning to stage 5 in the model). I also developed new research questions and even changed the title of the research proposal, which is now Evaluating a framework for the creation of successful enhancements to an ERP system.

When walking the dog - always a good time for thinking - my mind turned to a training session which is going to be held in a few days, when I will be explaining to one group of stakeholders a new enhancement. A select group - primarily the CEO, the vice president for development, the purchasing manager and myself - have been discussing this enhancement for several months (the protracted time period is due to the CEO and VP having other commitments) and now is the time to show one group of users how to use the system, which replaces an ad hoc system of paper notes.

It occurs to me that we didn't carry out stage 4 of SSMDE. As hinted above, there are two major groups of stakeholders: those that enter the data (in this case, sales reps) and those that retrieve the data (purchasing). Training for the purchasing people has already taken place; the training session in a few days time will be with the sales reps. We haven't informed them of the coming change - in other words, we haven't enlisted them. It doesn't matter how technically good the enhancement is: it's a failure if no one uses it.

There was a similar situation a few months ago, when together with the CEO I developed a system for recording information about upcoming sales within the ERP system, as opposed to a manual system based on spreadsheets. The training session was so difficult - even acrimonious - that I informed several managers that I was not prepared to teach such sessions in the future. As  a result, the CEO said that he would be present in such sessions: he will take the heat, not me. As it happens, as that enhancement was activated automatically, it became adopted fairly quickly and so can be defined as successful.

Getting back to SSMDE, it would seem at the moment that stage 4 is essential to the success of an enhancement. There's no problem when there is only one group of stakeholders involved, but frequently - at least, in my experience - major enhancements are developed without the enlistment of one group of stakeholders. This lack of enlistment is liable to lead to the enhancement not being adopted and thus failing.

Whilst the research proposal contains a paragraph which refers to the practice of 'parachuting' enhancements into use without the prior knowledge and involvement of at least one group of stakeholders, it was written many months ago, before the development of SSMDE. I should make this clearer in the next version of the research proposal.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Madam Secretary

I have referred to this 'government procedural' tv series a few times over the years. I knew that a fourth series had been commissioned but I didn't know when it was to be screened. Imagine my delight when I discovered yesterday that the opening episode of the fourth series was to be broadcast that very same night (i.e. yesterday evening, 11 Oct 2017) in Israel.

Surfing the net this morning, I read that 'Madam Secretary is set to premiere its fourth season on 8 October 2017'. In other words, we in Israel are seeing a programme only three days after its screening in USA. Very up-to-date!

My opinion about the series hasn't changed: very good (but not excellent). The scriptwriters must have had a fine time, writing extremely moral and uplifting lines for the eponymous secretary. I am sure that this is not what happens in real life.