12.26.2006

On the Importance of Finding Stakeholders

Here's a little story about a man named "John"...

"John" used to work for big nameless huge corporation as a restaurant manager. The restaurant did a considerable amount of catering. The catering orders were mostly baked goods. In order for the baked goods to be ready to be delivered each morning, the opening crew would have to make the muffins, breads, etc. starting as early as 4:30 am.

Since the day manager who sold the catering order might not be the same manager who would be scheduling the morning baking, communication was a critical step.

The managers had a system using some pretty complex Excel spreadsheets for making sure that the catering orders were tracked and paid for. These spreadsheets also calculated each day what needed to be made for catering orders - how many baked goods, salads, sandwiches, all of it. Since there's a cascading list of ingredients for each order, this spreadsheet was critical to the operations management of the store. The system wasn't perfect but "John" was able to do his job.

Until one day IT got involved. IT was asked by the Accounting people to make a new spreadsheet. Why? Accounting needed to make sure that every big nameless huge corporation catering order was paid for. Unfortunately, IT knew who the users of the spreadsheet were, but didn't represent them in the development at all.

This was a mistake because:

1)The new spreadsheet actually tracked and predicted less than the old one.

2)The new spreadsheets workflow was ludicrously bad (more on this in a bit)

3)The new spreadsheet was built from scratch without looking at the current spreadsheets (double work!)

So about that workflow...

Accounting at big nameless huge corporation only cared about receipts adding up. So that's all the spreadsheet did, made sure the receipts added up. Unfortunately, this meant that orders for catering could only be entered into the system for calculating how much needed to be prepared after the orders were delivered.

Big nameless huge corporation then went one step further. Big nameless huge corporation declared that managers were no longer allowed to use other spreadsheets because IT had made a "better" one and everyone should use it.

The end result? "John" and his team had to switch to tracking catering orders on generic Post-It notes... which are not that good at sticking to surfaces in a hot and damp kitchen environment. Customer service declined, manager frustration increased. But, hey, Accounting got receipts. On everything.

Accounting messed up here, but they have the excuse of possibly not being familiar with project management. IT has no excuse.

2 comments:

lodivod said...

why does this seem so familiar to me? ;-)

Yet Another Girl said...

B/C IT doing it thier way, full steam ahead, ignore the users is all to familiar to anyone working in IT?