Avoiding an Own Goal

Avoiding an Own Goal

While soccer fans around the world watched the World Cup games and barracked for their teams, FIFA's CIO, Gerard Gouillou, had a different goal in mind: that IT would go unnoticed at the World Cup

As Germany mourned its 2002 FIFA World Cup defeat, and as Brazil feted its historic win, and as billions of fans began gloomily contemplating the four arid years until the next bout - one man was quietly celebrating a victory of a different kind. FIFA (FA©dA©ration Internationale de Football Association) CIO Gerard Gouillou had triumphed over every obstacle - and there were many - to build the World Cup IT solution which had helped make the event as successful as any in FIFA's history.

In record-shattering time Gouillou had delivered more than 15 systems; an official Web site; and a high-speed, fully-redundant voice and data network connecting all 20 World Cup stadiums, the organising committee headquarters, a couple of airports and two international media centres. The systems had all-but-flawlessly delivered results reporting, TV graphics, commentator management, media information, accreditation, volunteer management, security, transportation, office automation and groupware to a range of World Cup 2002 stakeholders.

Gouillou's success was a vindication; proof positive of the unjustified pessimism of the Cup's stakeholders who doubted his team's ability to deliver, given the multiple snags fate tossed their way. In flying so effectively in the face of those low expectations, he had avoided the very real danger of FIFA scoring an own goal.

Gouillou admits that at times the odds against success seemed huge. Indeed so huge, that he says only the most rigorous adherence to program management methodology finally made the job possible.

Even in the ordinary course of events the challenges stacked up against successful delivery might have daunted a lesser man. FIFA faced major language, cultural and telecommunications difficulties in delivering the IT solution because, for the first time in its 70-year history, the World Cup had two hosts - Japan and Korea. But those problems paled into insignificance in the face of what happened next. Not much more than a year out from the event the original IT sponsors abruptly chose to withdraw, and FIFA's marketing partners, tasked with attracting new sponsors and delivering the IT solution, just as abruptly went bankrupt. And to add injury to insult, with kick-off looming, the world's most viewed sporting event had signed up one sponsor - Korean Telecom.

Considering design, integration and testing of the World Cup's IT infrastructure and systems typically requires 36 to 48 months, the time left to get the solution in place - 14 months - might have seemed ridiculously optimistic. Gouillou credits program management technology and processes, and the help of a dedicated team from A T Kearney, a division of services company EDS, with rescuing the IT solution.

"Program management was the tool that allowed us to manage such a big program in order to deliver within scope, time and budget," Gouillou says. "As soon as you have quite a big program or project you have to refer to program management tools or skills or techniques. If not you'll go down."

Gouillou had previously worked for EDS in France, where he was responsible for delivery of the France '98 World Cup IT solution, of which EDS was prime technology sponsor. As a result he says he was familiar well before Korea-Japan 2002 not only with program management technology and processes but also with the way A T Kearney was using them. He says successful delivery of Korea-Japan 2002 depended on both.

Program management techniques helped FIFA deliver on time, manage the scope and minimise the risk. They not only allowed progress, program and planning monitoring but also facilitated communication management. A T Kearney's head of the World Cup IT program Adam Bennett believes the event could not have been delivered without them.

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