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April 18, 2009

Setup to Fail (or, He Never Had A Chance): The Story of Bob the Analyst

Once upon a time at there was a systems analyst we will call Bob.

Bob worked in the IT department of a large company.

Bob was pretty good at what he did. He came to work every day, is quiet in his non-descript cubicle, does doest he was assigned, completed more or less on time, and so on. Bob always received average reviews, sometimes above average.

One day one of the senior managers calls Bob in and tells him to start working on a new project. This new project would require him to research many different sources and options.

He would need to call many service providers and vendors.He will have to look into integrating different outside systems into the in-house systems.He will have to get tech specs and pricing.He will have to check with the programmers, network engineers and DBAs to ensure the in-house systems can work with all these new outside systems with a minimum of reprogramming.And he will have to keep this project quiet as management doesn't want word leaking out to competitors.
But also don't let all the other projects you're working on slip. And Bob still has to respond to production issues/emergencies.

So analyst Bob does as his is told and starts contacting vendors, programmers, network engineers etc. while trying to stay up to schedule on his current projects too.

Analysts Bob quickly runs into road blocks:

He can't really explain to the vendors or staff what the goal of the project is.
He doesn't have a budget or even an idea how much is available for paying for these resources.
His title is simply systems analyst and many vendors (as well as in house people) don't want to bother speaking to someone who isn't a manager with management decision powers.
Plus, current projects and new projects keep getting added to his plate, as well as spending many hours a week on production issues.

Several months go by. Not a lot of definitive progress is made. Management isn't happy.

When analyst Bob tries to describe the resistance he is getting and ask for direction or management involvement he's told "That's your job!"

After a year analyst Bob has gathered some information but it's still slow going.

Frustrated with analyst Bob' perceived lack of progress management decides to hire an expert at this kinds of capital projects.

They hire Project Manager Mike as the lead person for this project.

PM Mike is PMI trained and certified.
PM Mike is an expert in these kinds of big multi-sourced projects.
PM Mike has many years experience doing just these kinds of projects.
PM Mike's only job in the department is to work on this one project.

When PM Mike is brought in management calls a staff meeting and introduces him to everyone.

Management explains in full detail what the project is, what PM Mike's roll is, how crucial the project is to the department and the company, and that management expects everyone to give PM Mike their complete support and high priority to his requests.

PM Mike is immediately brought in for several days of intensive behind-closed-doors meetings with management and senior department staff to discuss the project, resource availability, budget etc.

PM Mike is given his own office with a door to have private discussions with vendors, senior staff etc.

PM Mike is given an assistant to do the grunt work of phone calls, writing up documents and filing etc.

Whenever PM Mike calls everyone drops whatever they are doing and throws full resources at the request because management said so.

With in a couple of weeks several preliminary sources are identified and initial contracts are written up.

A few weeks later, development work begins.

After a few months a prototype is in testing.

And with in 6-7 months from the start of PM Mike's work the project is installed, up and running.
PM Mike is given a big fat bonus$ and a sweet raise$.

Meanwhile, people ask analyst Bob "How come PM Mike could finish the project in just 6-7 months and you couldn't get it off the ground in over a year??"

Analyst Bob is given a poor review and told to start looking for a new job.

He is dismissed 2 weeks later.

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