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Want a Winning Software Game Plan? Be a Collaborative Quality Booster

Have you ever watched Friday Night Lights, an American television series adapted from a book and film of the same name? No fan of American football, I refused to watch the series for years. Eventually, I grudgingly gave in, became captivated, and then viewed all five seasons of entertaining, thought-provoking episodes.

/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/quality_288980.jpgThe show focuses on a high-school football team and its coach, who with his wife and daughters, play key roles in episodes. The show addresses issues beyond football affecting contemporary culture, including racism, drugs, abortion, and educational and economic concerns in personal, often down-on-your-luck narratives that include repercussions of choices, good and not-so, made by teen-age and adult characters.

Although the series drew critical acclaim and passionate fans, it suffered low ratings. Praised for its realistic portrayal of middle America and in-depth exploration of characters and contemporary issues, the series received a Peabody Award, a Humanitas Prize, a Television Critics Association Award, and Primetime Emmy Awards.

So, what does a canceled television series have to do with collaborative quality? This phrase succinctly describes the team effort of the characters – and actors – in the series. The collaborative whole is better than its parts.

As with software implementations of poor or inconsistent quality, plots in the series’ episodes often depict  poor expectations, low trust, force of old habits, and being stuck in a rut. Coincidentally, a thought leadership paper on quality management of software implementations also alludes to these drudgery-of-daily-life, adverse characteristics. They divulge a lack of quality in team delivery that can affect software implementations – and actively contribute to why some fail.

Consequences of Inaction

According to thought-leadership experts, integrated software implementations can fail for five reasons:

  • poorly defined project requirements or governance
  • poor data preparation or “cleansing”
  • lack of team management, skills, or resources
  • trust issues among project team members
  • slow or overly complicated processes, configuration, or outdated technology and tools

So, how can these reasons for failure be prevented or reduced?

Putting Collaboration into Quality

By taking a systematic, collaborative approach to software implementations, organizations can decide how best to balance risk and caution with optimized, reduced costs. These costs are associated with both delivering specific quality activities and reacting to risk.

One way to develop a collaborative quality plan is to tie suppliers’ deliverables to overall success measures of the implementation – sharing responsibility as a team. Suppliers must actively contribute to setting and meeting project expectations. As a result, suppliers can then contribute directly to key areas of success: solution feasibility, technical readiness, operation readiness, architecture and IT strategy, program and project management, functional and integration readiness, organizational change management, and support readiness.

10 Principals of Quality: Luck Has Little or Nothing to Do with It

These principles help build predictability into the software implementation process, which contributes to fostering quality and collaboration:

  • Understand business objectives as well as technical requirements.
  • Agree on what can be delivered, in what time frame, and how to ensure timely delivery.
  • Work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve project objectives.
  • Apply a suitable project governance model.
  • Staff the project with sufficient resources with the right skills and experience.
  • Manage the project professionally using a formal methodology.
  • Identify and manage risks and issues jointly, involving all involved team members.
  • Develop and execute a quality plan, a neutral framework with standards for setup and evaluation.
  • Ensure that the project team understands if / how standard software functionality and best practices best suit specific implementation needs (customize only if/when necessary to keep TCO low).
  • Achieve software operational readiness with appropriate training and change management activities (end users should know how to use the software effectively from the start).

Keep the Collaborative Lights On

The thought leadership paper emphasizes that technology is key to driving a successful software implementation. I would add that human collaboration, and team building, is crucial to driving the technology. To learn more, explore Collaborative Quality.

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