Lessons Learned; A Project Post-mortem

 Background

Sometimes we learn by our experiences. That can be painful. Just as effective and less painful is learning from watching. In this re-guard, I can say that the worst project roll-out I ever witnessed was the expansion of services Statewide in Florida. I was the Program Manager for almost 2 years during the pilot program of our companies software in Miami-Dade Florida. Our software was visit verification services for fraud prevention in Medicaid home health services. Our pilot had been a great success and the state saved over 15 million in the plot county, and we looked forward to the State legislature’s vote to expand services statewide. For the statewide roll-out the company decided to hire a project manager (PM) to manage the implementation. I would maintain the pilot and the PM would hand off the expanded state after the implementation completed.

General

Although the end result was a fully implemented State, there was a period of extreme difficulty after the implementation. The most frustrating part of the the project resulted from a third party vendor’s software functionality being misunderstood in the initial planning and design making the transfer of data error prone. Upon reflection, if I were the PM, I would prefer to meet all skate holders (especially critical vendors) face to face for a deep dive into the data flow using a whiteboard or charts and diagrams instead of phone meetings and email. Even though this was the mainly the PMs failure (some was due to time and budget pressures), I still agree with the decision to separate the account managers from the frustrations of the roll out as it allowed relationships to be less impacted by the natural tensions and frustrations a project can bring. It did allow me to restore relations faster than if I had been the PM.

 Implementation

There were several issues that occurred during the project but nothing was as damaging as the data transfer errors that broke service authorizations when they were edited in any way. That might not sound like a big problem but it turned out the other vendor edited authorizations constantly, as in 100’s of times a day.

Our original estimates were very tight in time and budget but they were based on experience and we did meet the timeline and budget, we failed at quality and scope. I believe we had the right people although I think hiring a PM to run the project was bad only because the PM should have been allowed to work under a mentor for their first project. I think the new product, co-workers, culture, and politics were too much for someone with no experience with such a complicated product, on such a tight time table (it was dictated by state law not an estimate from us).

Conclusion

The implementation rolled out but success was dependent on how you define it. A month later things were running smoothly but the first few weeks were close to a disaster. The PM was eventually fired several weeks later. While the issue was resolved in a few weeks, the relationships both internal and with the client would heal slowly. Some of my take away from the roll-out are tacit. The clearest lesson is as a PM listen, listen, and listen to all stakeholders, going slow and being thorough at the beginning will help reduce the chance you might miss any key issues. A quote from Ross Perot about awareness comes to mind, “I ain’t ever been hit by a bus I seen comin’ from 6 blocks away”. (1992)

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Overcoming ‘scope creep’ [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Project management concerns: ‘Scope creep’ [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Perot, R. (1992). Larry King Show/ CNN

Terzieva, M., & Morabito, V. (2016). Learning from experience: The project team is key. Business Systems Research, 7(1), 1-15. DOI: 10.1515/bsrj-2016-0001.

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned; A Project Post-mortem

  1. Brian,
    I enjoy reading your comments on how some challenges may have a long-lasting effect on individuals than other issues, I am aware of how fraud may take control of clients/stakeholder’s life and turn it upside down especially in the State of Florida. The only forecast I see may have been a different turn out if the PM was never fired would have developed into a more devastation than what had already taken place. It’s always good to find out the outcome is better than the negative situation. Honesty and hard work certainly turns the ongoing event around.

  2. Brian,

    Your post was interesting in regards to your perspective of the project manager. Being that you were part of the pilot roll-out and its success I am sure that you encountered a few dilemmas. With that experience I wonder if you would have been able to prevent some of the errors that occurred. Your ending quote was very fitting for the how the roll out unfolded.

    Respectfully,
    Orlanda

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