Simplifying Complex Solutions – How to Navigate Large Integrated Programs

Integrated solutions program – delivering real value results with actionable plan and cohesive roadmap. 

It’s been a while since I blogged last – and what a time it’s been!  The way we live and work has transformed, tropical storms, no business travel for 6 months – plus a change of roles for me.  Which quickly gets me to the topic of this blog. 

At the 2019 Dell Technologies World (remember in-person conferences?), Michael Dell said “Inside the business, the first priority was to get each of the individual pieces working well, but then we saw that the real opportunity was in the seams and how we could more deeply integrate all the aspects of what we’re doing together.” Check out the video where he discusses this. 

My new role is to lead the development of integrated solutions across Dell Technologies consulting services.  Sounds easy, right?  Get everyone in a room (actually, on a Zoom call these days), discuss the client’s needs and have everyone develop their pieces – and voila – we have an integrated solution. 

Well, not so fast – it’s not quite that easy.   

My blog will explore this topic and present some recent lessons learned from a recent case study. I think it is really relevant to enterprises as well as systems integrators. 

A Case Study with Complex Challenges

To start, today’s typical challenges for a large program are as follows:

  1. Multiple stakeholders with sometimes conflicting agendas.
  2. Lack of internal resources with the right skills.
  3. Conflicting priorities/large backlog of existing work.
  4. Today’s restrictions around on-site work.

In order to best discuss how to overcome the various challenges listed above, let us look at a recent case study that I led for a Dell Technologies client.

The client’s business needs were to:

  • Show progress to the Board and increase the velocity of the migration of applications to the cloud.
  • Focus on a long overdue transformation of the IT infrastructure.
  • Modernize/replace many eFax applications.
  • Modernize/replace many Lotus Notes applications (remember Lotus Notes?).

As with any large program, there were two categories of challenges to overcome:

  1. Technical challenges – Organizations often struggle to define the right mix of solutions and approaches to address the business challenges. The struggle multiplies even after the right mix of solutions has been agreed upon; the problem then is how to design a singular program with metrics of success that support the client’s needs.
  2. Execution challenges – With these types of issues, organizations tend to focus on how to overcome the current operational challenges in their ‘new normal’.

Solving the Technical Challenges

Our approach to solve the technical challenges was to drive agreement on a digital transformation roadmap, as shown below. In a nutshell, affirm with the client the current state and drive agreement on the target state. Then, develop an agreed-upon set of workstreams that are pragmatic, implementable ‘chunks’ of work that move toward the target state. The general consensus on a metric for success is “Percent of the total application portfolio that is on / within the cloud.”

Strategic Vision for Digital Transformation

Because of the diverse nature of the client’s existing environment and needs, I brought together multiple consulting practices across Dell Technologies to make progress on several fronts in support of the customer’s goal of digital transformation:

I needed to approach this project in a methodical yet phased approach. The below diagram further illustrates the sequence of key, interrelated stepping stones to the overall program:

Digital Transformation Client Journey

Solving the Execution Challenges

Once the project is underway, there are several execution challenges threatening the key success factors, such as:

1) Program Management. These complex, multi-faceted projects require strong overall program management that drives integrated cross-domain scheduling and tracking. Complex programs must have coordination amongst and between workstreams, as well as ensure dependencies are clearly identified and tracked.  While this may sound rudimentary, it is increasingly a key success factor – especially in this age of remote teams.  A sample governance structure to ensure strong program management is shown below.

Program Governance Structure

2) Interactive Communication. In addition to the above, the pandemic has required program teams to work individually and remotely. This prevents the typical program and team communications that take place in adjacent workspaces, hallways, physical conference rooms and meals. As a result, consistent, frequent, interactive communications with all team members and stakeholders across the entire program is absolutely required. This rigor has several benefits:

    • It facilitates stakeholder visibility & engagement support throughout the program.
    • It enables you to stress attendance in meetings as requested – critical for remote teams.
    • It drives timely response to questions (hours vs. days) and escalations (per established process).
    • It enables timely resolution of conflicts in priorities and resources.

A typical schedule of best practices for program communications events, cadences, audiences, and scope for the program is shown below.

Example Transformation Communications Map

3) The Seams: Dell Technologies is one of the few companies in the world that can bring together the scope for this type of comprehensive program; not just a greenfield development for all new applications to a new cloud environment, but also dealing with legacy systems and developing a roadmap and action plan for every system in the portfolio and all the moving parts!

Of note, our client had two other consultant organizations perform engagements on cloud assessment and suitability – yet no tactical actions came out of them. Further, the consultants’ reports were put on a shelf. We were selected and engaged due to the on-point strategy and actionable plans delivered. Our focus on our customer’s journey and providing a comprehensive scope with a bias for action was what they deemed the deciding factors and value delivered.

Not only does Dell Technologies can execute on all the solutions described earlier, but our ability to manage and deliver them in an integrated manner – “seamlessly” – is what gives us a step above other firms.

4) Operations. Last but not least, a few words about effective and efficient program team operations.  Needless to say, the entire project team (both Dell Technologies and client) was working fully remotely during this program. I’ll share some of our key learnings around the ever-important operations success factor:

  • Key Learnings:
    • Less travel time means more time for the project team – it has kept everyone on their toes, and to some extent actually more Project resources are generally more available verses having to fly in or commute into the client site on Monday morning and (for remote consultants) departing Thursday evening for home.
    • Everyone is communicating through collaboration tools including email, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint. This instills a discipline to generate a written record for all communications that entire team can access throughout the program.
    • Collaboration remained consistent despite the changes happening around team members.
    • Morning huddles – these are ever more important for remote workers – to ensure that everyone on the same page for the day’s tasks.
    • The lack of work group collaboration at the project site resulted in team members feeling less able to establish personal relationships with each other. Many team members remarked that they missed the additional dimension of working together – and that points to the importance of doing check-ins, and how doing video calls can create a personal touch. Bottom line, this sentiment underscores the importance of collaboration tools.

How Dell Technologies Services Can Help

In summary, integrated solutions are difficult to plan and deliver. With the right partner you can leapfrog your organization over others. Dell Technologies has the experience  of providing our clients with integrated solutions to accelerates their transformational journey and realize the cost and agility benefits earlier.

One thing we’ve learned from delivering these kinds of integrated solutions is that it’s important to gain consensus early on among business and IT executive stakeholders.  We’ve developed a packaged service, called the ProConsult Advisory service, to make it easier for you to leverage our experience in developing strategy and roadmap for integrated solutions.  This service is available at three different levels (Base, Core and Plus) to align with the level of support you need.

Special thanks go to Sunil Ramchandani at Dell Technologies for his insights and assistance in providing texture for the above perspectives. I’ll be back soon with another case study from the front lines of Dell Technologies integrated solutions.

If you’d like to partner with Dell Technologies to maximize the value “in the seams” of your transformation journey, or explore innovative solutions, reach out to me to find out more on how we can help you, or comment below. You can also contact your Dell Technologies representative.

Final thoughts before I sign off: here is a fun Zoom Bingo game to use at your next Zoom meeting.  Keep track of who says what during your next Zoom meeting – and the first person to mark a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) wins a prize!

Conference Call Bingo

About the Author: Laddie Suk

Laddie leads a cross-functional Dell Technologies Consulting team focused on digital transformation and industry solutions. He is a seasoned industry veteran with deep experience across multiple industries, solutions, and technologies. As a former Verizon Network CIO and Network Executive at AT&T and Bell Labs, he has extensive hands-on experience in leading strategic network and IT development projects and managing communication service provider environments. He has also led strategic and tactical engagements in network transformation, IT transformation, and business process and performance improvement for clients throughout the Americas.