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How Agile has helped us transform project delivery and boost success rates

Since the new system was introduced in 2017, no fewer than 95% of projects have been completed on time and budget, and to the client’s satisfaction – a success rate that is almost unheard of in the world of software delivery.

Digital transformation is the ‘holy grail’ for today’s business but implementing a major IT project is not always straightforward. According to figures from the Project Management Institute (PMI), 14%of IT projects fail, and a further 31% do not meet their goals.

At SRO, we have long recognised the challenges and in recent years have been pioneering a new approach. We have developed our project management framework, based on Agile principles and the standards set by the Association of Project Managers (APM), and adapted with the needs of Maximo projects in mind.

Association of Project Managers benefits management process
    1. SRO follow the Benefits management process as per APM Body Of Knowledge, 6th Edition”

So what was wrong with the old approach?

Prince2, which we had been using for many years, is the world’s most widely used project management system, and it is easy to see why. Andrew Carrie, SRO’s operations director, explains: “With Prince2, the endpoints are clearly defined from the start and the project guarantees to deliver them, which means that customers get precisely what they asked for.

“That’s great if you are building a house or a bridge, where the exact specifications can be worked out in advance, but it is not as helpful for an IT project.  Often the client is unsure of what they want, unexpected problems arise, or it becomes clear that the original specification won’t deliver the right results. Sticking to the original plan is likely to mean the project exceeds time and budget, and the outcome is disappointing.”

Andrew and his team started to review procedures and explore the alternatives. They identified Agile DSDM as the most promising and spent the following year developing a framework around it, then trialling and improving the concept until it was ready for use with all Maximo projects. The entire team were also trained and accredited as DSDM Practitioners, and an internal committee established which reviews the framework regularly and updates it accordingly with gathered feedback.

Andrew adds: “While the Agile and APM principles have provided a sound basis, it is the framework that SRO has developed around it that has given it the magic touch, and how staff have embraced it. The whole exercise has been a major investment by the business, and it is already paying off.”

How does the new system work?

Instead of starting with a fixed idea, the new process begins with the Definition or Initiation stage, which involves staff from throughout the business to find out what features they want or need from the new system.

SRO Project Management Approach

The SRO team organise workshops, identify a wide range of ‘user stories’ and what criteria staff consider acceptable.

These criteria are then prioritised using the MoSCoW method [see box] and used to inform the design of the system and produce cost estimates. Once the company has agreed to the scope of work, development work can begin. The aim is to create a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible, which is tested on users. Based on their feedback, the system is modified and the process repeated over and over, resulting in incremental improvements.

Why clients love SRO Project Management way?

Dozens of projects have been completed using the new framework, and the system is being refined all the time. Improvements achieved so far include:

Better control of projects

From the client’s point of view, the approach enables more effective tracking, controlling and monitoring of their benefits realisation plan, ensuring ongoing analysis of key areas such as cost and viability.

Greater functionality

Because the process starts by exploring staff views and understanding how people will use it, the final system tends to be more user-friendly and better co-ordinated than when companies simply present a list of, often conflicting, demands.

A true partnership

The feedback from customers is that they see the project as a partnership because they are involved in every step of the way. In one case – a Maximo implementation at Stena Drilling – the company have sent 60 of its staff for training in the system.

Enablement to drive change

Usually, one of the most significant barriers to successful digital transformations has been resistance from staff, however, as their views are considered, and they help shape the system, they buy into it from the start.

“We are not just delivering software, but organisational change and that is more difficult to achieve,” says Andrew. “That’s why it is so important to get buy-in from the staff. With this approach, user acceptance is far higher because people have had a say. We are not only achieving better success rates; we see examples of seismic change.”


About the author

Andrew Carrie

Andrew Carrie

As SRO's Operations Director, Andrew's focus is around Business Process & Continuous Improvement. His Marine Engineering background defines his core skillset to deliver industry-focused, high-profile Maximo marine implementations across the globe. 


Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

Understanding Agile DSDM

aims to ensure that a project is ‘aligned to clearly defined strategic goals’ and ‘focuses upon early delivery of real benefits to the business’. There are eight fundamental principles:

  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time and budget
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never compromise quality
  5. Build incrementally from firm foundations
  6. Develop iteratively
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly
  8. Demonstrate control.

The MoSCoW method

is a way to identify priorities and ensure that a fully functional solution is delivered on time and budget. Features are divided into four key groups:

critical requirements that the project guarantees to deliver. None of these will ever be rejected unless superseded by a better solution.

Should Have 
important but not critical.

Could Have 
desirable but less essential.

Won’t have
features the project team have agreed will not be delivered this time. These may be incorporated into a future phase of development.

No more than 60 per cent of the total effort in a project should be allocated to Must Haves, and 20 per cent to Should Haves, leaving 20 per cent contingency for additional requirements or refinements.

"We are not just delivering software, but organisational change and that is more difficult to achieve."

Andrew Carrie, Operations Director, SRO

"At the outset of the Maximo project, we had our reservations over the Agile Project Management system . . . However, SRO has managed to stick to the original project timeline, and we have high hopes for a successful roll out over the coming months. Looking back at previous software projects, where a conventional waterfall project management system was utilised, we can definitely see the merit in adopting an Agile approach."

Graham Brunt, Stena Drilling

"While the Agile and APM principles have provided a sound basis, it is the framework that SRO has developed around it and the way how staff have embraced it that has given it the magic touch. The whole exercise has been a significant investment by the business, and it is already paying off."

Andrew Carrie, Operations Director, SRO