QUESTION: Your feeling is that it’s not the technology that fails, but the processes around it. Why is that?
ANSWER: As a general comment, business executives still need to understand the people aspects of technology. It’s that mix of the technology and delivery that matters. So often,
business executives say put the technology in and people will use it. And that is not always the case. The real challenge for the technology executive is being able to manage the change effectively, getting the buy-in, proper level of training and a proper level of executive involvement.
QUESTION: Where do you see the problem?
ANSWER: There’s a formula in the quality movement called Q times A equals E. Q is the quality of the product or service, A is the acceptance and E is the effectiveness. To get 100 per cent effectiveness, you have to get 10 on the quality and 10 on the acceptance. Technology people like to focus on the Q side, that’s the cool stuff. And the A is the soft part. Are the people properly trained? Do people see value add, are they brought into it?
QUESTION: So it’s not the technology stuff?
ANSWER: In my experience, when you see a major program fail, it’s because of these soft things. If there are problems with the technology, such as the application doesn’t scale, the response time is not adequate, or it’s too cumbersome to use, you can fix that. It’s a very clear problem, you can get to the root cause, and you can fix it. But the softer things, it’s not always visible where the problem is.
QUESTION: Yet when we hear about these massive project failures such as an ERP implementation, the reason given always appears to be technical.
ANSWER: My experience is if the database is not working, or the technology doesn’t match, you can fix it. It’s the lack of attention to detail on the soft side. The technology is the easy stuff. And that’s something people have a hard time with.
I see it in my organization. Go back to E = Q X A. On the Q side, I give my people a nine or a ten almost every time. Where we get into trouble is on the A side: either the users weren’t trained, the testing wasn’t done before it went live or the data wasn’t cleaned up. All of these things are on the soft side.
QUESTION: You’ve been involved with a large project at Sun yourself. (Recently, Sun consolidated more than 100 servers and 60 Oracle ERP applications down to a single server running one version of Oracle.) What was your biggest challenge?
ANSWER: Most companies including ours are doing application consolidation, things that grew up over the years in silos that created a lot of redundant things. It used to be one application for every one server. But getting the developers and the maintenance people and the business users to agree to run on a shared environment is a major issue in terms of getting them to change.QUESTION: Is that what you are doing now