Jim Watanabe was in his new car, driving down I-5, on his way to work. He dreaded the phone call he knew he was going to have to make.
The original go-live date for a pilot implementation of Petrie Electronics’ new customer relationship management (CRM) system was July 31. That was only six weeks away, and Jim knew there was no way they were going to be ready. The XRA CRM they were licensing turned out to be a lot more complex than they had thought. They were behind schedule in implementing it. Sanjay Agarwal, who was a member of Jim’s team and who was in charge of systems integration for Petrie, wanted Jim to hire some consultants with XRA experience to help with implementation. So far, Jim had been able to stay under budget, but missing his deadlines and hiring some consultants would push him over his budget limit.
It didn’t help that John Smith, head of marketing, kept submitting requests for changes to the original specifications for the customer loyalty program. As specified in the project charter, the new system was supposed to track customer purchases, assign points for cumulative purchases, and allow points to be redeemed for “rewards” at local stores. The team had determined that those rewards would take the form of dollars-off coupons. Customers who enrolled in the program would be given accounts which they could access from Petrie’s website. When they signed on, they could check their account activity to see how many points they had accumulated. If they had earned enough points, they were rewarded with a coupon. If they wanted to use the coupon, they would have to print it out on their home printers and bring it in to a store to use on a purchase. The team had decided long ago that keeping everything electronic saved Petrie the considerable costs of printing and mailing coupons to customers.
But now marketing had put in a change request that would give customers a choice of having coupons mailed to them automatically or printing them from the website at home. This option, although nice for customers, added complexity to the XRA system implementation, and it added to the costs of operation. Jim had also learned yesterday from the marketing representative on his team, Sally Fukuyama, that now Smith wanted another change. Now he wanted customers to be able to use the coupons for online purchases from Petrie’s website. This change added a whole new layer of complexity, affecting Petrie’s existing systems for ordering online, in addition to altering yet again the implementation of the XRA CRM.
As if that wasn’t enough, Juanita Lopez was now telling Jim that she would not be ready to let the team pilot the system in her Irvine store. Juanita was saying her store would not be ready by the end of July. Maybe that wouldn’t matter, since they were going to miss the go-live date for the pilot. But Juanita was hinting she would not be ready for months after that. It seemed as if she didn’t want her store to be used for the pilot at all. Jim didn’t understand it. But maybe he should try to find another store to use as the pilot site.
Jim was almost at his exit. Soon he would be at the office, and he would have to call Ella Whinston and tell her the status of the project. He would have to tell her that they would miss the go-live date, but in a way it didn’t matter since he didn’t have a pilot location to go live at. In addition to going over schedule, he was going to have to go over budget, too. He didn’t see any way they would be ready for the pilot anywhere close to when they had scheduled, unless he hired the consultants Sanjay wanted. And he would have to stop the latest change request filed by marketing. Even more important, he would have to keep the rumored change request, about using coupons for online purchases, from being submitted in the first place.
Maybe, just maybe, if he could hire the consultants, fight off the change requests, and get Juanita to cooperate, they might be ready to go live with a pilot in Irvine on October 15. That gave him four months to complete the project. He and the team were going to have to work hard to make that happen.
Jim realized he had missed his exit. Great, he thought, I hope it gets better from here.
- Why don’t information systems projects work out as planned? What causes the differences between the plan and reality?
- Why is it important to document change requests? What happens if a development team doesn’t?
- When a project is late, do you think that adding more people to do the work helps or not? Justify your answer.
- What is the role of a pilot project in information systems analysis? Why do you think Petrie’s team decided to do a pilot project before rolling out the customer loyalty system for everyone?
- Information systems development projects are said to fail if they are late, go over budget, or do not contain all of the functionality they were designed to have. Is the customer loyalty program a failure? Justify your answer. If not, how can failure be prevented? Is it important to avert failure? Why or why not?