After a couple of push-backs on the go-live date, this February the Bluefin Solutions' team of new graduates went forward over a weekend of remote co-ordination and much anticipation with the go-live of Project Topaz, a refresh of Bluefin Solutions' SAP CRM system. Following an intensive Graduate Bootcamp, Project Topaz was our first, real, live project...and our chance to prove ourselves.
Over the duration of the project, the team faced a number of challenges, which, whilst we overcame them, did make us wonder at the time whether we would be able to meet the customers' expectations and ensure the project's success in the short timeframe. This was in addition to some of us juggling other projects at the same time. However, with us now at the end of April, Topaz has held up very well after a smooth go-live.
Waking up early on a cold Saturday morning I was first to put the initial transports into our live production system which contained the core functionality we had been building as part of Topaz.
After numerous standard error messages, warnings and bizarre messages on the screen (which I am told are perfectly fine, and meant to be there), I loaded Bluefin Solutions' SAP CRM production system to see if the changes had gone in - and yes! Everything was there. So the next time users logged on to manage their customer accounts and reports, the changes we'd made over the previous few months would be there.
As the next steps of releasing the changes to our reporting system and back-end functionality for the mobile app went ahead that day, I started to wonder what has been learnt from this project.
As I mentioned before in my first blog - Project Topaz: The rebirth of Bluefin Solutions' internal SAP CRM system - people who have been in the industry for many years say projects are still their greatest learning experience. Some projects are more complicated than others and some seemingly simple projects can actually be very complicated, and vice versa.
Throughout the course of this project we experienced things which we didn't explicitly plan for - system upgrades, skill and knowledge gaps, and expansion of scope...to name a few.
System upgrades and downtime. This could perhaps have been better accounted for if we'd actively identified this as a potential issue. In our eager and optimistic state, we were perhaps wrong to assume 'how' things would work instead of finding out and understanding how they do work (as I will say in another post - I still do not think this is a bad expectation to have, however).
Skill and knowledge gaps. Expecting to find someone available, with the right skill-set, when you need them, isn't always realistic. Again, this was another assumption on our part, and one which can cost you time that you haven't planned in. However, things would have been different if, as a fully-costed and blueprinted project would have, various knowledge gaps were plugged before we started by booking in the right resource.
Expansion of project scope. As Mike Bowell touched on in his blog, this impacted the scheduled go-live date. Features which were not prioritised from the start were added in days before the original go-live, meaning that not only did additional functionality need to be built, it also had to be tested as part of the wider system.
Whilst expansion and/or change of project scope is inevitable (and understandable) across many projects, prioritisation and planning around the core business requirements minimises the potential for risk from the onset. As new starters on a pre-planned project, we didn't have the time, or opportunity, to engage in this process as fully as we would have otherwise.
Unfortunately we were unable to release the mobile app at the same time as project go-live. This was down to authentication issues outside of the scope of the project, but we do have a working app ready to go. James Hale and Lindsay Stanger have created a really exciting SAP CRM sales app from scratch - both in terms of creating the back-end functionality and designing something which is user friendly and simple to use. Via SAP NetWeaver Gateway, Lindsay Stanger found a powerful way of exposing SAP CRM to the outside world, and James Hale rapidly developed the front-end by building it upon user priorities and workflows. Our internal services are currently working on our infrastructure, so hopefully the users will be able to get their hands on the app soon.
Since Topaz went live, the whole project team has been flat-out on other projects, but we are still on hand and ready to pick up any Topaz related questions. As a team we started from nothing, and over the course of just a few months we further developed and upgraded a core and critical system for the organisation.
The success of the project was down to the hard work, determination and enthusiasm from the team and fantastic guidance from our Project Manager Tony Rosenthal. The knowledge and insight we picked up during the intensive Graduate Bootcamp was key to ensuring we were prepped and ready for the challenge of such an important project within such a short space of time. And the experience gained from working on a live project within just a couple of months of joining Bluefin Solutions, has been an excellent catapult into the world of consulting.
For everyone a lot has been gained from the experience, and we're all excited to move on, building on what's been learnt.