Gus Power

Systems Engineer

Modern businesses rely on the ability to introduce, operate, maintain and continuously improve digital services. Initiatives that depend heavily on software services do not yield to traditional management approaches, as attested to by the stream of negative media coverage surrounding public-facing IT services - cost and time overruns, quality problems and failures.

Why does this happen?

It is that software engineering is a relatively new field? Unlikely, as there are numerous successful software businesses in the market today (e.g. AWS, Google). Clearly some businesses have mastered it. Maybe the pace of innovation in software is outstripping our ability to cope? This is also unlikely to be a primary cause as some organisations have reaped considerable benefits from such innovation (e.g. e-commerce vs. physical retailers).

Software - especially business software - controls information flow. Information flow controls when, where and how work is done. Work generates revenue and cost. As a result, changes to software can have a wide impact on the organisation, its suppliers and consumers and, of course, the bottom line. Prioritisation becomes difficult, with different stakeholders wanting the best outcome for their specific, and often local, concerns. Adoption, too, becomes difficult as changes must be synchronised across multiple departments and groups to realise the intended outcomes. Regulation, legislation and policy constraints add to the complexity. Software changes can create a significant "blast radius".

Software qualities can be difficult to define, especially in contractual terms, but the effects of insufficient quality are felt immediately. A system may contain all the desired features - and more - but without the required levels of quality it will serve only to annoy staff and customers, drive costs up and encourage workarounds. The flaky software will inhibit information flow rather than enhance it. These quality problems can be traced back to the implementation - time pressure led to corner cutting, corner cutting led to quality issues, quality issues created more time pressure, and so on, until a mediocre product is produced. In the end the bottom line shows the difference between engineering excellence and mediocrity.

It's rare that the original solution meets the needs of all parties involved on the first attempt. It's also unfortunate, but not unsurprising, that the people who write and integrate software are not the same people who have to use it. Despite these facts, many initiatives, especially large ones, give themselves a single shot at success: one big release that gathers all the risks into one big event, after which what is done is done. Software change creates the new BAU.

I have successfully delivered over 20 high-risk business-critical changes in so many years. If you recognise the problems above and have the authority to tackle them, I can help you by:

  1. understanding your existing technology estate and the options it presents
  2. employing practical, alternative approaches to define, agree, measure and realise the intended value of digital initiatives
  3. using techniques to mitigate cost overruns, quality problems, delays and integration risk
  4. working with business and technology people to create and sustain effective, humane working environments
  5. identifying what is required to create excellent digital products and services
  6. simplifying the way software is designed, delivered and maintained
  7. bringing in people with expertise and specialisms from my network to create the desired change where needed

If you have a need that seems to fit, and you are based in the UK or Ireland, then perhaps I can help. Feel free to contact me via one of the channels below.