Situation

Our client was an Ontario-based Industry Funding Organization, established by Waste Diversion Ontario under the provisions of Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act, 2002. The organization is responsible for developing and operating waste diversion programs on behalf of industry stewards (manufacturers and importers of designated waste products).

The organization was facing a significant increase in responsibilities due to the expansion of the province’s Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste (MHSW) program. The changes included:

  • Expansion of MHSW program from 9 to 22 materials within a year
  • Expansion of supply chain management responsibilities for the 22 materials from collection and transportation only to include procurement, management, reporting and audit for processing services

More sophisticated information systems were urgently needed to support the evolving business. At the time, the organization’s financial and operational data systems were managed by external service providers and the organization was facing significant business risks and inefficiencies:

  • Lack of access to data needed to manage the business and measure results
  • Financial processes and data were inadequate to manage a business of the organization’s size and complexity
  • Dependency on a third party to provide critical information
  • Restricted capacity to support program growth
  • Unable to respond quickly to developments in a rapidly changing environment
  • Missed business improvement opportunities due to a lack of information

Requirement

The development and implementation of an information technology structure and information systems that would:

  • Allow the organization to monitor and measure the effectiveness of each of its business processes in order to continually improve the business
  • Support the maximum mandated waste diversion at the lowest possible cost
  • Provide for effective financial control and management given the size and complexity of the organization and its programs
  • Meet the needs of all stakeholders for full, transparent and understandable business, and compliance reporting
  • Incorporate effective data security and confidentiality safeguards
  • Meet the need for integrity, reliability, flexibility, scalability and auditability
  • Integrate financial and materials tracking data and ensure full traceability
  • Maximize the mandated Steward participation and facilitate compliance, while eliminating cross subsidization
  • Minimize identifiable business and program risks
  • Provide a sound foundation for business growth over the following 5-10 years

Challenges

The main challenges we faced in conducting this project related to:

  • Timing – the need to meet an externally-imposed tight timescale, while also addressing the organizations longer-term business information needs.
  • Budget – to ensure that project budgets were met in order to avoid the creation of a deficit for this not-for-profit organization.
  • Potential conflicts of interest – the project involved in-sourcing business processes and IT services that were being delivered by an external providers; these organizations held important data and know-how crucial to project success.
  • Access and authority – neither we nor the client had authority to insist on the involvement of external stakeholders that were needed to provide subject knowledge and expertise.
  • Uncertainty of business vision – Most of the organization’s project team members were new to the organization and had limited knowledge and understanding of future business requirements.
  • Lack of precedents – the organization was operating in a newly evolving industry sector with few established best practices on which to draw.
  • Volatility of influences – in the rapidly evolving product stewardship context, the project was subject to unpredictable legislative and policy changes, which might impact the information system needs.

Actions

  1. Conducted stakeholder interviews and business documentation reviews to develop a strategic understanding of the business context; this was used to define the skill sets and subject matter expertise needed from the project team.
  2. Completed the business process design and defined organizational roles and responsibilities in order to establish a foundation for developing the system business requirements.
  3. Developed the business requirements, both functional and non-functional.
  4. Managed a competitive RFP process with 5 software vendor participants to ensure the client received maximum value from the software procurement process.
  5. Integrated the successful proponent into the existing program office to ensure a cohesive and coordinated delivery structure.
  6. Completed system configuration and portal custom development on time and on budget.
  7. Successfully transitioned the new processes and system functionality to the business team.
  8. Completed handover to the ongoing operational support organizations once the testing and post implementation support activities confirmed that the solution fully addressed the requirements and would effectively contribute to the realization of the project and business goals.

The Art and Science Difference

The project involved major challenges over and above the technical aspects of system development, which required a delicate balance of art and science skills. We needed to understand and address a range of organizational and people-related issues. For example:

  • The concerns and interests of external service providers, and how to secure their involvement and commitment to the project despite having little vested interest in its goals. This required the development of a detailed stakeholder management plan, but also strategic awareness and excellent interpersonal and communication skills to build effective working relationships.
  • The challenges of managing and leading a multi-disciplinary team unfamiliar with working together, operating under tight time and budgetary constraints. Our project manager was able to achieve this through being highly organized; able to develop and communicate detailed project plans, effectively motivate the team and keep them focused on shared goals. Personal attributes in motivating and inspiring the team were also crucial.
  • The need to resolve project issues in a timely and effective way. This was achieved through the use of frequent team meetings and the establishment of an effective governance structure granting us frequent access to the organization’s leadership.

Results

At the conclusion of the project, the key success factors had been achieved and the client was highly satisfied with the project solution and the value added by Schroeder & Schroeder:

  • The client now owned the data and the system on which it was held.
  • All operational and business related data was held on a single integrated system.
  • The client had the ability to generate live data and automated reports for the purpose of program reporting and business intelligence purposes.
  • The client had a clear business vision and a roadmap for achieving it.