Our client was a professional association representing teachers, with more than fifty semi-autonomous subgroups including Locals, Specialist Councils and Conventions.
The Association had an outdated IT infrastructure and IT systems. It required a complete overhaul of these. There was also considerable overlap and duplication of processes and effort within the Association and its subgroups.
A major multi-year initiative (TNET) was underway, which would introduce new automated IT systems designed to provide the Association with a single authoritative source of information and allow it to more effectively analyze the value of its services and programs.
In this context, the client had identified a need to determine how the new systems could be best deployed to the overall advantage of its members, the Association and its subgroups, specifically to enhance the use of information to improve the operations of the Association.
There was also a need to ensure that the TNET initiatives and associated IT process enablers were properly integrated and aligned with sub-group program and service strategies.
Schroeder & Schroeder Inc. was commissioned to:
- To use a structured and systematic approach to analyzing the existing IT environment, reviewing processes and identifying areas for improvement.
- To determine where existing processes were not effectively aligned with the desired program and service direction.
- To determine which processes were in need of change or improvement.
- To determine the appropriate focus for improvement activities by identifying the underlying issues necessitating process redesign or additional IT support.
- To align IT services to the processes that were fundamental to the fulfillment of association and member needs.
- To develop plans, recommendations and an overarching subgroup IT strategy for the implementation of IT services.
The main challenges we faced in conducting this project related to:
- The need to reconfigure processes to align these with the functionality of the new system.
- The scale and complexity of work involved in dealing with more than 50 sub-groups and integrating their strategies and processes into a single overarching approach.
- The critical importance of securing project buy-in and necessary input of a large number of sub-groups, many of which perceived little immediate self-interest in the outcomes.
- Reviewed relevant documentation and conducted in-depth interviews with group leaders and staff to generate a high level description of current processes, methods and standards, and to identify related issues and opportunities.
- Conducted product research and identified alternative approaches to meeting the IT needs of the provincial Association and the subgroups, and the strengths and weakness of each option. A quantitative “Value Analysis” of functions was conducted to inform the recommendations.
- Developed twelve key recommendations for alternative options to be selected under particular situations, for consideration by the project Steering Group.
- Following review by the Steering Group, developed a detailed definition and business case for the selected alternative. This covered processes, business requirements, change management issues and the required “business architecture”, and set out detailed benefits and costs as well as defined target service levels.
- For the approved option, developed a high level implementation plan, including timing, resource requirements, implementation risks and change management considerations.
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 importance of moving ahead quickly and confidently to reach the desired performance objectives and making good judgments even in the absence of complete information. This required an intuitive ability to discern the most relevant factors as well as excellent business acumen.
- The importance of using a highly participative approach – seeking input through surveys, interviews and workshops – to ensure that the perspectives and concerns of a wide range of stakeholder groups were incorporated. This required excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as specialist research and analytical skills.
- The importance of securing the input of key individuals with Association experience to be part of the project team and Working Group, despite competing demands on the Association’s time and resources. Sound negotiation skills and sensitivity to the issues and constraints facing stakeholders were crucial for achieving this.
- The need to avoid change for the sake of change by focusing on those areas which were of high “value added” to the Association and its subgroups. This required a high level of strategic awareness and the ability to understand value in both qualitative and quantitative terms.
The project was successfully completed on time and within budget and the client was highly satisfied with the outcomes and the value added by Schroeder & Schroeder.
On completion of the project, the client was in possession of a set of detailed plans, practical recommendations and enhanced understanding of their information environment providing a clear roadmap for future TNET projects.
The resulting benefits of these outcomes for the Association included:
- Improved ability to deliver on services required by members
- Enhanced program and service outcomes
- Acceleration of information flows and more effective processes
- Achievement of improvements in productivity and quality
- Having IT support services conducive to high performance
- Having the right support in place at the right cost