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Meet 'The Fixer' for Troubled IT Projects

Meet 'The Fixer' for Troubled IT Projects

The missing link can be realigning the project back to its objectives

CIO.com: How do you deal with the emotional baggage of these big, expensive and career-threatening project failures?

Coyne: The customer will always tell you that the vendor, prior to signing the contract, was telling them how much of an understanding they had of the project, how they understood the business, how they have implemented similar systems in the past, and the ROIs that other companies have seen. They'll also say that, pre-sales, they saw some great people shipped in by the vendor. The A team. But then once the contract was signed, they got the B team. The A team went off to sell the next system.

What also gets the customers emotional is the processes of having to define how they wanted the solution to look. The customer will always say: "The vendor keeps saying to me: You need to specify how you want this to look and work; spec it out for me."

And the customers are very frustrated by that, because the customers understand their business processes, they understand their business. But they don't necessarily understand what a technology is capable of. And that's why they contracted with these specialist vendors! They didn't expect to have to spec it out. They expected the vendors to guide them through the process, to meet them half way. So my job is to put the customer back in his comfort zone.

CIO.com: How are you different than a project-management turnaround specialists at the big consultancies?

Coyne: They are just new project managers that come in. What generally happens is that a new project manager will come in and try to understand the governance processes that have been used by the project. He'll generally try to tweak that and operate it better.

But the missing link is realigning the project back to its objectives again. Because if the project is going in the wrong direction, doing it better just means that you'll get to the wrong direction quicker or more efficiently. You don't get to the successful project. You've got to reestablish your eyes on the outcomes of the project. Why did we ever start this project?

When somebody signed off on this business case, what did we tell them we were going to deliver because it certainly wasn't a CRM system, because nobody would have signed off on a Ã'£5 million CRM system. What they would have signed off on is a Ã'£5 million [mechanism to achieve] better visibility into who buys products from us or increase the company's revenue stream in year two.

CIO.com: Have any of your customers or adversaries ever given you a nickname?

Coyne: Somebody was saying once that [my role] is like the fixer, because you need someone to fix these projects. Some customers have said: It's like the equalizer, because as a customer we can't really compete with the technical knowledge that the vendor has.

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