Sunday, May 17, 2015

The boonies

This is a true story. The company name has been changed.


Acme Corporation’s offices and operations weres located in a small village pretty much in the middle of nowhere, accessible only by charter aircraft.

During the planning stage for their new system, Acme’s location had been discussed at length. Acme’s sponsor was concerned that technical support for the new software and hardware would be slow and delay the implementation if any problems occurred during the project.

As a result of these concerns, it was decided that the project should be run in a nearby city. The Acme employees on the project team would leave their regular jobs and re-locate to the city for the duration of the project. Technical support was readily available in the city, eliminating the lag time of chartering aircraft for technical support.

An added benefit was expected, that Acme employees would be physically removed from their usual work and able to focus on their project work. This should lead to less time required by the consultants, trainers and data conversion specialists, and therefore lower costs.

The situation

Early on in the project, timelines started slipping. The Acme team members were coming to the city unprepared for the next stage of the implementation.

The project manager probed to find out why these problems were occurring. Acme’s remote location turned out to be the problem. It had not been possible to fill the Acme team members’ regular jobs at the office, as it was an extremely small town with no other qualified individuals that could be hired. As a result, when the Acme team members went back to the office to gather information for the next step in the project, they had to do their regular jobs instead.


The project manager worked with the project team to evaluate the available alternatives.

The options considered were:
(a)   Change scope;
(b)   Move the deadline;
(c)   Add resources.

The team felt it was unhelpful to change the scope of the project. Implementing only some of the modules instead of all of them would require either a lot of manual processes or custom-designed interfaces. This interface design work would need to be done by the same Acme team members who were overworked already. So, reducing the scope of the project would actually eliminate very little or no work.

It was clear that the deadline would be missed by at least a month, because timelines had already slipped a month and the project schedule had been tight to start with. The team considered whether moving the deadline any further would really be helpful. They felt that unless it moved a long way, they still would not have time to devote to the project - the business still had to function. However, the team felt it was very important to avoid missing the go-live date by any more than the one month.

Adding resources looked like the only option. However, Acme had no resources. They didn’t have any other internal staff to do the work, and had been unable to hire anyone else due to the remote location. The only way to add staff was to add external resources, by increasing the hours of the consultants.

The team also believed that it would be better for the project work to take place at the Acme office. This would allow the consultants to obtain information directly from other Acme staff members, instead of waiting while the overloaded Acme project team members coordinated the information gathering.

Adding the extra consulting time would require an increase to the budget to cover increased consulting fees, and for travel for the technical person when support was required.

The project manager reworked the project plan and the budget. She presented them to the project sponsor, and the changes were approved.


The new approach worked; the consultants were able to obtain information directly once they were relocated to the Acme offices. Fortunately, there were very few technical issues after the team moved to Acme’s office.

The project did finish one month late. However, no further time delays occurred. The project team had not been able to save money by implementing in the city. However, the new project budget, based on the remote town implementation, was met.

The project sponsor was pleased with the outcome. Although cost-conscious, he had been more concerned about the slipping deadlines and possibility of further lengthy delays.


The lack of resources in the remote location should have been considered during the planning process. Some creative approaches to recruiting may have enticed resources to move to fill the temporary roles.

However, once the project was underway and deadlines were being missed, the project manager needed to focus on evaluation of alternatives and getting the project back on track.

Copyright 2015 Debbie Gallagher