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    Why are so many projects missing their delivery dates lately, and what do we do about it?

    By Hau Nguyen
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    Let’s face it, the Covid pandemic changed everything. Now, many businesses are undergoing a major digital transformation in order to adapt to today’s vastly different environment. Unfortunately, however, the keyword in that sentence is “undergoing.” Many of these projects continue to languish under indefinite delays and cost overruns. This is driving CEOs crazy. They can see so much disruption potential in our new world, but the initiatives aimed at capturing that opportunity just don’t seem to pan out. It’s like a 21st-century version of the ancient Greek story of Tantalus, who was punished by Zeus to forever go thirsty and hungry despite being stood in a pool of water within reach of a fruit tree.

    Why is this happening, and what can we do about it?

    COVID-19 caused a swift change in consumer behavior, and businesses need to adapt

    Anyone who gets a weekly “screen time report” from their phones can tell you that consumers massively increased their time spent online during the pandemic. Most surveys are reporting that consumers are spending at least 50% more time online as compared to before March 2020. This applies across all age groups across the vast majority of the world. All industries saw a shift towards online behavior, particularly education, shopping, working, meeting, socializing, and healthcare. Companies also report that 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature, which is three times higher than before the pandemic.

    It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that businesses now need to shift resources to their online businesses to accommodate this consumer behavior change. Up to 52% of global companies increased spending for digital transformation because of COVID-19. Consequently, global demand for software developers has increased dramatically– to be exact, there has been a 93 percent increase in IT recruitment compared to pre-pandemic levels.

    But wait, isn’t this a good thing?

    Yes and no. In order to understand the downside, put yourself in the shoes of a CTO in, say, the Health and Wellness space. The CEO is pressuring you to transform the digital business quickly to get a first-mover advantage, but you don’t have the necessary engineering skills in-house. So you try to recruit, but you can’t attract the best candidates because the FAANG companies lure them away with ridiculously high salaries. So what do you do? You probably either a) lower your standards, b) try to make do with the resources you have, or c) continue to recruit and hope for the best. Any one of those options, unfortunately, means that you won’t be able to deliver a good product on time. You’ll end up being mired in delays while you watch your competitors eat away at your market share by getting their slick new mobile app to market first.

    This is exactly what has been happening to a lot of companies. Gartner Analytics reports that more than 60% of app development projects are very far behind schedule. Atlassian shows that up to 66 percent of IT and development professionals think that their team has slowed down the frequency of software releases. Ouch.

    Fortunately, there are other options!

    What can we do about it?

    Let’s go back to the hypothetical case where you’re the CTO of a Health and Wellness company trying to adapt to the rapid change in consumer behavior. You might think that the only options are to a) lower your standards, b) try to make do with the resources you have, or c) continue to recruit and hope for the best, but it turns out that there are a few other options that you may not have considered.

    1. If you have a clear set of values, you will recruit better, retain better, and increase your velocity

    If you try to compete against Meta, Google, et al. for top engineering talent, you’re not going to win by getting into a salary bidding war. They will always have more money than you. Therefore, you have to compete by offering something that the Silicon Valley titans can not. At CodeStringers we feel that our values are what makes us attractive. We recruit and promote according to a set of core values such as honesty, transparency, humility, partnership, and commitment to quality/craftsmanship. We have found that when we find a candidate with the right values, we can recruit and retain at a rate far higher than the competition.

    Passion and vision are also key values that will help recruitment, retention, and velocity. Everyone wants to leave their mark on the world, and everyone wants to clearly see how their work is getting the company one step closer to your goal. So the better defined your vision is, and the more passion you put into it, the more you can build with the resources that you have.

    2. Learn the value of Business Analysts

    Last year we did a post about this very topic. Your velocity will be very much increased if you have someone playing the role of Business Analyst. This department ensures thorough use case planning for each feature before development begins. Product managers and business stakeholders often have vague feature ideas like “booking a massage appointment on an app.” To build a professional app, consider details like notifying therapists, syncing with their Google Calendars, and more. What if they use iPhones? What if they don’t have Wi-Fi where they live? Etc.

    If all of these questions get answered before the code gets written, then it will be done cheaper, faster, and better.

    3. Consider an outsourcer

    In certain cases, the right business choice may be to outsource some or all of your new projects to an outsourcer. Again, we have an earlier blog post on how to decide if outsourcing is for you, and another on the benefits of outsourcing.

    Outsourcing becomes necessary when you lack internal resources or skills to innovate. There are many outsourcing firms out there that have expertise in any technology that you wish to invest in. We do, however, recommend that you pick an outsourcer who both matches your values and has a proven track record. Otherwise, you can end up with what we call an “outsourcing nightmare.”

    Some parting words of advice

    The digital transformation must NOT compromise core values

    Fast growth needs fast recruitment. This may tempt you to hire a qualified candidate who doesn’t share your core values. Resist this temptation! Each new member alters the group dynamic, and a couple of wrong hires can spoil the team.

    Adapt or die

    The crisis struck quickly and hard. To survive, you need to adapt just as quickly. “Quickly”, however, does not mean “mindlessly.” When the world changes as much as it has, old paradigms may or may not still apply. Make sure to increase your reliance on data rather than experience/instinct when making decisions.

    You should also prioritize core components/release time over perfect software. The software will then be continuously improved and developed in collaboration with your software providers. It helps you stay ahead of the competition by reducing release time. It also minimizes the risk of mistakes.

    Don’t go alone

    Research indicates that people and organizations learn more quickly as a result of network effects. Find and add trusted partners to your shared solutions space. In the midst of a crisis, it is difficult to predict what will happen. Therefore, what you need is not a simple outsourcing company; you need a reliable companion.

    Final Thought

    Digital transformation strategies aimed at creating a competitive advantage over your competitors sometimes fail unnecessarily. A trusted partner and a commitment to your core values will help you achieve success.

    Vien Nguyen

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    Senior Business Analyst

    About the author...

    Hau loves to use and explore digital and physical products/services to improve productivity and simplify life. That also inspired me to become a Business Analyst two years after I began my work as a Quality Control Engineer. I have a strong passion for improving products and services that provide positive customer experiences. My diverse expertise in fields in both outsourcing(NashTech, FPT Software) and products(CodeStringers) companies such as CRM for telecom, hospitality, streaming content provider, data processing, LMS, etc. gave me a different perspective and experience in the software sector.One of my favorite things to do is travel, which also helps me recover when I need to heal after work. The sport I enjoyed playing most in my free time was badminton.

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