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The Quest for a Standard Methodology
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Looking for a standard development methodology to run all your engagements is similar to searching for a unified theory in physics First,
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Running the engagement
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whenever we think we ve found one, something new comes along that is not addressed by our current understanding Second, we firmly believe that a single methodology exists, but we just have not found it yet Since the rise of client/server architecture, business process reengineering (BPR), and web computing, many consulting firms have reduced their search for a single methodology that works for all engagement situations, and instead have turned to generic computing frameworks These provide a general road map for conducting consulting engagements, but with lots of on- and off-ramps so that only specific deliverables are produced for a client based on the requirements agreed to for the engagement This approach is shown in Figure 10-2 The basic idea is to jump in where appropriate, produce the necessary deliverables, and then jump out again What makes IT consulting engagements so different from each other The simple answer is that a client can hire consultants to complete or assist in any activity that assists their business The permutations and combinations involved in starting and stopping at any point on the road map shown in Figure 10-2, and doing some or all deliverables, are always growing over time Consider, for example, the activities required to support an SAP implementation in a Fortune 100 organization This requires a different approach than, say, a few database administrators (DBAs) needed to tune an IT database environment
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As another example, consider an engagement with the objective of building a strategic plan for an organization This will not require any implementation activities The engagement requires the consultants to complete the strategy work and then take an off-ramp when it s finished Despite the limited scope of this engagement, the client may still ask you how this strategic engagement feeds into other parts of the their business They may ask you to recommend a technology architecture, but may come back from time to time and ask you to explain why this is necessary for their organization Because you asked me, is not an adequate answer Always be prepared to explain the bigger picture, or road map, to a client, regardless of the limited nature of the engagement you are retained to complete Even technology-based solutions that solve the same business problem can require different methodologies For example, tuning a Sybase SQL Server database requires a different approach than optimizing an Oracle database These differences can also be seen across industries and business applications The auditing capabilities required of a banking application, for example, are much higher than those for an insurance illustration laptop program that will be used by agents to sell policies in their clients homes An application to promote free tickets over the Internet to a hot movie will require web stress-testing activities to show that the site can handle spikes in traffic (perhaps as many as a million concurrent requests), while the same
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application may only need to be tested for 50 concurrent users if it is not directly accessible by the public How then is it possible to define an IT engagement development methodology that can be used on all the different types of IT consulting engagements you might be called on to do How can the methodology also be leveraged by different roles on an engagement For example, account managers need a framework to manage their client relationships, managers need a framework to help manage their engagements, and developers need a framework to help build software The answer is that you need to be flexible and adaptable One rule of thumb is to use the client s methodology on your engagements But this has a few drawbacks There is no guarantee that this methodology will be sufficient, so you may still have to provide some best practices to augment it In addition, since you must do most of your planning, estimating, and accountability before you are likely to get a chance to study a client s methodology, you cannot always depend on this approach A potential solution is to seek a higher level of abstraction to the problem Move away from the specifics and examine the problem as a whole and in its purest sense If you examine IT history over the past 35 years, you will find that a set of common phases have been required to solve every IT-related problem Furthermore, there are times when only a subset of these phases are required to solve a specific business problem Crafting a flexible framework around this collection of phases allows you to customize a unique and appropriate solution for your engagements For the most part, IT engagements require a set of planning activities, a definition of a business problem, a design that everyone agrees to, the actual construction of the solution, testing of the solution, implementation, and some type of post-implementation support These phases may be completed using different tools and techniques The relevant weighting may vary between assignments But the generic phases, as shown in Figure 10-3, can continue to serve as a starting point on all engagements Any number of specific items can vary, but you always need to be thinking in the basic terms of the five phases in Figure 10-3: Plan, Architecture/Design, Develop, Test, and Deploy Figure 10-3 also identifies a list of the minimum deliverables required to support a generic IT engagement and suggests the phase in which they are initially constructed The activities to create them, the techniques, and formats can change over time, but the deliverables themselves are required to support the five major phases in this approach
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