BUILDING A CUSTOM SYSTEM—WITH SOME HELP
I worked with a large financial institution in the southeast that suffered serious financial losses several years ago. A new chief executive officer was brought in to change the strategy of the organization to being more customer-focused. The new direction was quite innovative, and it was determined that custom systems, including a data warehouse, would have to be built to support the new strategic efforts. The problem was that the company did not have the in-house skills for these kinds of custom projects. The company now has one of the most successful data warehouse implementations because of its willingness to use outside skills and its focus on project management. To supplement skills within the company, eight sets of external consultants, including hardware vendors, system integrators, and business strategists, were hired to take part and transfer critical skills to internal employees. An in-house project manager coordinated the data warehouse implementation full time, and her primary goals were to clearly set expectations, define responsibilities, and communicate the interdependencies that existed among the team members. This company showed that successful custom development can be achieved even when the company may not start off with the right skills in-house. However, this kind of project is not easy to pull off—it takes a talented project manager to keep the project moving along and to transition the skills to the right people over time.
1. What are the risks in building a custom system without having the right technical skills available within the organization?
2. Why did the company select a project manager from within the organization?
3. Would it have been better to hire an external professional project manager to coordinate the project? Why or why not?