You really, really do need to read this … really you do!

We’re starting to get into some serious stuff here… I mean these are the critical operations right?  These are the things you really do have to get right.  I know that this can get overwhelming, seems like a lot of work and you’re probably not sure where to start. Here’s the deal… a little effort now will save a lot of grief later.  You’ll only have to do these first 3 critical operations and then you can claim success.  Also, you don’t have to get it all done the first time through. It’s not a test, unanswered questions don’t count against you and you can go back as often as you like when you have more information.  You’re new motto is:

One step at a time and skip the hard stuff until it gets easy

The Critical Operations

The Critical Operations are the things you must get right immediately or your business is dead before it even gets started.  All of these operations directly impact your customer.  These operations are:

  • Requirements Management
  • Work Planning
  • Service Delivery Planning

Requirements Management Overview

“Is what you delivered what the customer ordered?”

This operation is the first and most important operation of your business – learning what the customer wants. This is also the operation that is easiest to get wrong because it seems so simple.

You and your customer talk about what is needed and you both understand completely what the job will require. You’ve completed the job feeling proud of the work you’ve done and when you deliver it to your customer they explode that this isn’t what was ordered.

Can’t happen to you?

Just wait for it.

So what happens and how did this go so completely wrong when it started so wonderfully right? English is a wonderfully rich and complex language but when it comes to defining the needs for a job it can also be extremely frustrating.

It’s helpful to look at requirements in at least two different forms, verbal and written.  The written form is preferable but for the tiny business, a verbal discussion followed up by a written statement of each of the requirements discussed is good enough. However let your business needs decide on what is the best way to identify, negotiate and capture requirements. Other considerations affecting requirements can stem from your customer’s agreements with other suppliers (e.g., the customer’s underpinning contracts, operational level agreements, memoranda of agreement, subcontracts).

Once you and the customer are confident that the correct requirements have been captured then those requirements must be managed.  When doing this you might think of requirements as loveable but energetic children who will constantly be getting into mischief if you let them. Just like good parenting, management of requirements often includes:

  • Managing all changes to requirements (new shoes every 6 months, etc.)
  • Maintaining relationships among requirements, plans, and work products (playing well together)
  • Ensuring alignment among requirements, plans, and work products (anyone have to go to the bathroom before we leave on our vacation?)
  • Taking corrective action (why didn’t you go before we left?)

In summary, the major elements of the requirements management operation include:

  • Understand Requirements
  • Obtain Commitment to Requirements
  • Manage Requirements Changes
  • Maintain Traceability of Requirements
  • Ensure Alignment Between Work Products and Requirements

Traditionally, well-formed requirements need to be:

  • Clear, concise and stated in words that can be measured.  For example, the phrase “as soon as possible” is not measurable, who knows what is possible and what may be possible for you may not be possible for me.  A better phrase is to state a specific time period or date and time.
  • Complete.  Does the requirement contain all the information necessary to enable anyone reading the requirement to know what is necessary to fulfill the requirement?
  • Consistent.  Not only should the requirement be internally consistent it should also be consistent with other requirements.  For example, one requirement states that measurements will be made in feet and inches and another requirements states that they will be made in meters and centimeters.
  • Verifiable.  Fancy way of saying testable.  How will you prove that the requirement has been met?
  • Traceable.  Every requirement needs to have a starting place with the customer.  A requirement that cannot be traced back to the customer or other high level source can be a problem since you may be putting resources into a requirement that the customer has not asked for.
  • Viable.  Can the requirement be fulfilled in today’s world?  We may want to be able to have same day delivery but depending on the product, price and distances it may not be possible.
  • Necessary.  If a requirement is not necessary for customer satisfaction or other high level commitment then why spend resources on it?
  • Implementation Free.  At the highest level a requirement should only discuss “what” is needed, not “how” it will be provided.

Work Planning Overview

“What are the major steps required to do the work?”

The purpose of work planning is to establish and maintain plans that define work activities, in other words this is where the rubber meets the road.  As a tiny business, the majority of your work planning may be done informally as you think through what you will need to do to satisfy the customer.  You may repeat many of the same activities from one job to another because this is what has worked for you in the past.  It’s those repeated activities you want to capture in your work plan and in so doing you will:

  • Have a checklist of activities reducing the possibility of forgetting or accidentally skipping an important activity,
  • See possible ways to combine or eliminate activities that you hadn’t noticed before,
  • Be able to delegate activities quickly and efficiently when necessary.

Your work plan may start out as a simple list of activities with a very brief description of each activity but as you get more work you will have the opportunity to expand on the information you have on each activity.  Key elements of work planning are:

Establish Estimates of key activities:

  • Establish and maintain the service approach.
  • Define service delivery phases on which to scope the planning effort.
  • Establish and maintain estimates of work product and task attributes.
  • Estimate effort and cost for work products and tasks based on estimation rationale.

Develop a Work Plan based on your key activities

  • Establish and maintain the budget and schedule.
  • Identify and analyze risks.
  • Plan for the management of data.
  • Plan for resources to perform the work.
  • Plan for knowledge and skills needed to perform the work.
  • Plan the involvement of identified stakeholders.
  • Establish and maintain the overall work plan.

Obtain Commitment to the Plan with your stakeholders

  • Review all plans that affect the work to understand work commitments.
  • Adjust the work plan to reconcile available and estimated resources.
  • Obtain commitment from relevant stakeholders responsible for performing and supporting plan execution.

Service Delivery Planning Overview

“Did you fulfill all your contractual obligations?”

You’ve identified the requirements and have planned your work so now is the time to put it all together in an agreement with you customer on how the service (your work) will be delivered.  This can be as simple as a hand written work order but it is imperative that a written agreement be drawn up if only to make sure that everyone is working from the “same sheet of music”.

The Service Delivery process area focuses on the following:

  • Establishing and maintaining service agreements
  • Preparing and maintaining a service delivery approach
  • Preparing for service delivery
  • Delivering services
  • Receiving and processing service requests
  • Maintaining service systems

Service delivery covers establishing and maintaining a written agreement with customers. A “service agreement” describes the service to be delivered to the customer, service level targets, and responsibilities of the service provider, customer, and end user as appropriate.

Establish Service Agreements

  • Analyze existing service agreements and service data to prepare for expected new agreements.
  • Establish and maintain the service agreement.

Prepare for Service Delivery

  • Establish and maintain the approach to be used for service delivery and service system operations.
  • Confirm the readiness of the service system to enable the delivery of services.
  • Establish and maintain a request management system for processing and tracking request information.

Deliver Services

  • Receive and process service requests in accordance with service agreements.
  • Operate the service system to deliver services in accordance with service agreements.
  • Maintain the service system to ensure the continuation of service delivery.

Next up: Overview of the Profit Creating Operations

One thought on “You really, really do need to read this … really you do!

  1. Pingback: You really, really do need to read this … really you do! | thoughtsinspace

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