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Replacing a PPM tool - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

By mike2.2 posted 04-04-2016 12:10 PM


For the majority of may professional career I have been involved in Application Performance Monitoring and PPM tools, with small stints with other technology. Even in the military (my second tour) I was involved in the acquisition, delivery, and maintenance of IT systems and networks. So over the past 3 decades one thing has remained constant......When things go wrong, blame the technology. To this I say "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"!


When an organization acquires technology they normally do their proper research, analysis, and solution design and deploy a product(s) that meet their current and anticipated needs. But when the end users are introduced to the solution, this is where things get interesting. Wrestling a user away from a decade old MS Excel spreadsheet, or a home grown tool is problematic. They then start to complain that the new tool (solution) is too hard to use. When you start to update your solution with governance rules and start requiring your teams to follow methodology, the solution takes the blame. once again there is a chorus of "This tool is too hard to use". While there may be legitimate reasons for a company to replace a tool, this article mainly looks at dis-satisfied users.


Over the course of a few years the chorus can become very loud. Hopefully, it can be silenced with the appropriate job aids and training. From my experience, the loudest in the chorus tends to be those that managed to skip the training, or are predisposed to not accepting any new changes to how they work. This has been common in all tools that I have consulted in. But unfortunately, there are some senior managers and executives that like the song that is being sung by the dissatisfied users and they read the trade reviews so unless the tool is in the upper right quadrant, it must be a legitimate complaint. So naturally the tool is the source of all the issues and must be replaced.


So lets take a step back. The initial RFI cost money, the requirements definition cost money, the RFP cost money, the consultants cost money, the install cost money, support, initial and ongoing training, hosting/hardware, etc. So other has been a considerable investment to date. So because of a few singers in the chorus, you want to do it all over again? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!  Do they ever expect to see any return on investment?


While there may be legitimate reasons for replacing a tool, how about starting the process by looking internally and not externally? Why are some of the users unhappy? and better yet, why are some of them happy with the existing tool? You need to understand this or you will get caught in a viscous cycles and bleed cash. I once saw a client go through the 4 major APM tools in the span of 6 years. The end result was that all the tools did what they advertised, it was the users that did not want to use them. At one point they actually sabotaged one of the tools.


If you make the unhappy users happy by replacing the tool, what happens to the existing satisfied users? interesting question, huh? Often the satisfied users are not thought of and you are back to the same chorus with a whole new set of singers.


So before spending cash on looking at a replacement, try this:

     - Document the satisfied users and the reason they are satisfied, and also ask for potential improvements.

     - Document the dis-satisfied users and why and also find out what they like about the tool. Lets face it they cannot hate everything (hopefully)

     - Review the findings and see what is actually a tool limitation, process issues, governance issues, etc

     - Are any of the issues training related? If so, then update your training materials and have those that are having difficulties attend the training (try to gear the training to these attendees to get better buy in)

     - Are any of the issues process or governance related? then work with both those teams to possibly update (if necessary) or explain to the users the reason why they need to follow process of governance. After all this is tool agnostic and if they are not happy now, they will not be happy with a new tool.

     - Are there any limitations to the tool? If so, is there an easy workaround? Upgrade? 3rd party add-on?


Lets face it, pretty much all APM tools do the same thing. Just as PPM tools pretty much do the same thing. So before undertaking a very costly replacement, really find out why you want to replace the tool first. Is there a real issue, or a perceived issue? understanding this can save your organization a lot of time, frustration, and dollars.


On a personal note, I loved these sorts of projects as I was able to learn about a lot of tools, and keep my billable hours up. Few vendors will turn away easy money, and a replacement is easy money.



04-05-2016 11:17 AM

A tool supports a process and not enforces a process. I Like that a tool is used for a purpose and to make you more effective.


For example I can hammer a nail with a rock when I need to, but a hammer makes me more efficient.

04-05-2016 09:41 AM

Great blog entry Michael.

Another factor is whether the company really needs the process that the tool supports.

Too often companies get suckered into buying new shiny tools (which essentially do the same thing) without questioning the why.


That's not to say we can excuse the state of CA PPM today, arguably a good way behind modern expectations and standards (UX and architecture)

Throwing in the trend to product centric development (a blog post in it's own right), you could argue the persona improvements coming are too late

04-04-2016 04:38 PM

After writing this blog, I decided to check on the status of a competitive upgrade that I was involved in a few years ago. This was a move from Clarity to a competing tool. The decision was that there was very little uptake on Clarity and that it was the tools fault and not the mandate or executive sponsorship. TO make a long story short, we as the technical team stated that without proper sponsorship and a mandate to use the tool, few users will actually use it. This fell on deaf ears. Millions of dollars were spent on replacing Clarity, not to mention the sunk costs already gone.


The new tool was hyped and a mandate was put into place and the new tool that would solve all the problems was deployed. Yes it was. It was deployed late, and 2 and a half years later it has very little uptake, little executive sponsorship, poor training, etc.


Here are a few comments from the new tools users:

     - Squandered Opportunity

     - They are reliving the past as they did not have sponsorship before and still do not have it. So few PM's are putting in accurate data.

     - Poor reporting capabilities

      - Not as configurable as Clarity

     - Do not recommend changing tools if the problem you face is lack of uptake. Deal with the underlying cause, otherwise you will relive your past and be poorer for it.


Over the duration of the above (Clarity install -> Use -> Replace) I estimate that over $20 million was spent on the acquisition, configuration, deployment, hosting, maintenance, and training Clarity, then add the costs of the rip and replace with the new tool, retraining, data conversion, hosting, maintenance, etc of the new tool. All that wasted effort and dollars when the issue was poor adoption due to an ineffective mandate and inadequate executive sponsorship.


How long to they decide that they need a new tool?


The cycle continues.

04-04-2016 12:57 PM

Michael, as always, an excellent and thorough analysis!


Looking at the problem from another vantage point, one of the key "Critical Success Factors" is obtaining buy-in and support from Senior Sponsors and "Thought Leaders". By focusing first on these "movers and shakers", the Solution Architects can ferret out the key "Wants" of the "opinion leaders":


1. What process enhancements would allow them to more confidently make the strategic decisions that they are not making using the Tool(s) outputs today?


2. What enhancements to the Tool(s) scope, depth and/or outputs would raise their confidence to the level that they might actually use the Tool's outputs?


3. How can process and tool enhancements be portrayed in a manner that confirms the "opinion leaders" vision and convinces operating personnel that the sought after enhancements benefit not only the organization but their individual effectiveness and efficiency?


If simple, easy to understand, Tool output enhancements can be shown to and championed by the opinion leaders, the Process Enhancement Team can partner with them to prepare and deliver compelling presentations that identify, justify, demand and win compliance from the operating personnel.