"CIOs often do one or two significant transformation programs a quarter and you are doing 30 in 18 months! "
This conversation with my contacts at Forrester woke me up. I realized, then, what my teams were being tasked to do - a gigantic transformation.
In 2014, our entire Enterprise business was spun off and acquired by Huaxin Post & Telecommunications from the parent company, what was then Alcatel-Lucent (now part of Nokia). I was tasked with managing the IS/IT, legal entity and real estate separations and transitions from the parent company. Under the guidance of Accenture it took five months to legally (and logically) separate from our mother company.
The real work, however, was just beginning. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to rebuild a digital workplace to support today’s workstyles and enable new business models. As of today, the project is on budget and on time.
What is the key to success?
A target architecture to build the gigantic transition plan
Since the core team was small team Sogeti was asked to help build the spin-off’s target architecture covering the application landscape and the infrastructure building blocks. The starting point after that was obvious, except that as a newly born entity, separated from an efficient larger group, there were no vendors in place to support the spin off, no existing teams to execute the projects, and no competency in several key domains.
I gathered key individuals from my teams, plus some subject matter experts, to build a giga transition program made at the application and infrastructure levels of 30 transition programs containing 125 individual projects. They were grouped as follows:
• The infrastructure transition enablers among which the most important ones were the WAN, datacenter and end-user computing
• The interim architecture with authentication and middleware
• The IS and business transitions with application transformation projects
• Transversal and external projects
The plan represents more than 20,000 days of labor not including the time it took to set up legal operational entities: 45 countries were equipped with support for ERP, procurement, finance and HR tools. Add to this, 61 new or transferred office locations since we had to exit the majority of the parent sites.
To get a feel for this: Imagine you decide to remodel the family house – changing to central heating and cooling, refreshing the bedroom décor, updating the electrical wiring, adding on to the house, redoing the bathroom fixtures and remodeling the kitchen - all while staying and continuing to live your normal life. That is the challenge the teams were faced with implementing this gigantic transition program while ensuring business continuity.
The winning recipe
In addition to the target architecture and the associated plan to reach the end state, there were also several practices key to success.
1. A drumbeat: A strong project management office team made sure project managers were empowered with the chosen methodology, timely reporting of information, and sharing of updates during review and governance meetings. The following meetings were set up:
• A weekly transition project progress meeting (TPMM) – Between the former parent company and the spinoff, initially set up by Accenture to exchange progress on both sides
• A weekly ALE internal comité de pilotage (COPIL) – To review project progress
• A bimonthly ALE internal project review – To do deep dives on key projects
• A monthly IS/IT steering committee – Between parent and spin-off to manage commitments and escalations
2. Project milestones and dependencies: Systematically tracked for each project to ensure on time completion and proper scheduling of execution. These were reviewed weekly by the COPIL. The supporting application was ProjectVision – a SAAS project management software from Cora that enabled distributed contributions from all parties.
3. SWAT team: To diligently fix problems as they happened. It was comprised of experienced IT managers that could remedy issues related to infrastructure and applications. In a transition carve-out, project teams cannot anticipate all the changes that are happening since all the referential points are changing all the time, hence the corrective actions.
Today the project is near 90% completion, trending well to reach a March 31, 2016 deadline for complete physical separation from the parent company.
What have been the best practices in your most successful IT projects?
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This is a true story about ALE. It’s a story about our digital transformation experience—where things got stalled, and what it took to succeed.