From “quick win” to “permanent loss”
A few days ago, a friend of mine contacted me asking for my opinion about the overall strategy of a Business Intelligence (BI) project she was working on: the idea was to deliver the entire front-end presentation layer (reports, dashboards, etc.) and only then start working on the Data Warehouse layer meaning the whole modeling, data structuring and ETL (Extraction, Transformation and Load). According to her description they could not even tell all data sources which were needed to deliver the already committed front-end layer.
I believe most of us have already experienced a similar situation. I have seen it under many names and concepts, but usually we can simplify it by calling it a “quick win”. By “quick win” we usually mean something (a part of a project, a specific functionality or something alike) that can be delivered really fast (in comparison to the whole deliverable), in a reasonable cost (also compared with the whole deliverable) and mainly can deliver a high value added. In an ideal world, that would mean to expend 20% of the resources that will bring 80% of the value added (in a simplified Pareto analysis).
It should be mentioned, that while running for the “quick win”, it is possible that some governance rules or best practices guidelines are overlooked in order to reduce furthermore the amount of resources invested. Clearly it can only be done when previously agreed with all stakeholders and under the strict commitment to fulfill all the necessary requirements when implementing the remaining project.
Needless to say that the advent of the “quick win” bears no roots on technical grounds. Out of my experience, if you ask a technician if he/she would like to deliver “the perfect solution at any cost” or a “usable solution at a very low cost” he/she would gladly explain that although the low cost solution can be used, as such, it has an enormous list of disadvantages and risks that must be taking into consideration.
So, in order to build up a solution that actually can be sold – a very important perspective of a consultancy company by the way, technicians all over the world (myself included) depend on our marketing, sales and project managers colleagues. Who were brilliant on bringing up to the business solutions that fits both the customers needs and the standard of delivering the best possible solution by introducing the phasing approaching, prioritization of deliverable and, of course, “quick wins”.
To say it straight away: I support the “quick win” approach as a tool to make projects possible and viable. I believe that if we can find the right “thing” (be it a report, a process, a dashboard, workflow, etc.) that can really tip the scale to our customers, we should get it done as soon as possible in order to guarantee a fast ROI (Return Over Investment) and moreover the competitive advantage our customers are always looking for.
However, I disagree with the approach, sometimes “quick and dirty”, some solutions are sold and delivered. I disagree with the idea of delivering everything as a “quick win” or a “productive prototype” as I have seen several times. I would encourage all those willing to use the “quick win” approach to follow a very simple checklist:
- understand your client environment, its problems, opportunities and challenges;
- propose a complete and sustainable solution;
- highlight the “things” that could be done with a small amount of resources (time, money and people) and potentially can bring a huge benefit (productivity, profit, efficiency, etc.);
- if needed – in order to make the project viable – create a four hands road-map or a program in order to apply the phasing approach.
With the simple checklist above, you will make sure not to overlook the big picture.