Monday, 22 July 2013

Unlike Wine, Problem Records do not Improve with Age

I recently met up with a friend who is a Problem manager, and as practitioners do they need to vent about one issue that they are facing in their organization. We started talking about a Problem record that they had open and how it seemed it was never going to be closed off.
Digging a little deeper, and sensing that this was going to be more than a one Guinness discussion, I asked why it was still open.
“You know…the root cause of this issue is still there but the workaround is holding it together, in fact, the customers don’t even think that this is a workaround, they think the app is supposed to function this way.
I motioned to the bartender to get the next pint going….
Over the next while I learned the following about this problem:
·         The application was OTS (Off The Shelf) which in that form contradicted some processes which the business had used for years
·         The IT project manager was instructed by the business stakeholders to have the application modified to fit their current process
·         Before the launch there were several issues identified, however, the business did not identify them as critical so the application was rolled out on schedule.
·         In the first weeks of sustainment it was identified that there were more than a few “glitches” which were identified. The sustainment team made a list of the issues and created known error records in an excel spreadsheet and passed them along to the operational team.
I know what you’re thinking… first, wasn’t this a discussion about Problem management? And second there is a whole lot more going on here than Problem management issues.
The answer is “Correct” on both counts. What if I also told you that the application we are talking about was launched 3 years ago?  Here’s where this changes things a bit

The application was OTS (Off The Shelf) which in that form contradicted some processes which the business had used for years – the original OTS was so bastardized that the regular releases we not followed impacting vendor support
The IT project manager was instructed by the business stakeholders to have the application modified to fit their current process. The people responsible for this deployment have moved on to other challenges in other companies
Before the launch there were several issues identified, however, the business did not identify them as critical so the application was rolled out on schedule. The defects that remain, have been in existence for 3 years
In the first weeks of sustainment it was identified that there were more than a few “glitches” which were identified. The sustainment team made a list of the issues and created known error records in an excel spreadsheet and passed them along to the operational team. These issues are the problem records that have been opened
This is why the customers think the application works this way, for the most part it does. This lends to the following challenges:
·         The application experience is bad as there are workarounds where the defects have existed since roll out
·         The ability to correct the defects is impacted by an inability to move to new releases from
·         Lack of vendor support
·         Concerns that these fixes will make things worse – loop back to customer experience

Whether or not this problem can be fixed at this point or not is the least of concerns. In fact closing the problem off with a review of why this happened is very important. This review should be held with your key business stakeholders, PMO, IT Operations.
In addition to addressing the issues(s) as they exist, it should also be decided on what activities should be investigated to prevent an issue of this type from happening again.
This level of CSI allows the discussion point for improvement, but the “doing” part still needs to happen. Otherwise you may be faced with a problem record that is open for over 1000 days




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2 comments:

  1. A good note. Very typical of applications rolled out without signoff on business requirements from the business owners. Most importantly for systems which are in use historically, through which business is focussed only on current transactions rather then aligning to the fundamental objectives of the application.
    Having been in middle of such mess myself, I can vouch that unless business continuity is affected management dosent notice these problem records and these problem records can never see the light.
    Unfortunately, this is a pipeline with only one open end.

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