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         Communication Aspects in Software Engineering

14 April 2014

How to prepare for a CSR system implementation

In this article, suggestions are presented to help organisations prepare for the implementation of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) system and to ensure that the investment produces maximum rewards in terms of streamlined processes, real-time reporting and ideally decreased costs.

Step 1 – How to prepare the Business Case?

A CSR system, what for? The vast majority of companies today make their critical CSR decisions based on spreadsheets, home-grown applications or somewhat limited desktop applications. However, the more advanced and successful companies tend to implement a full-blown Enterprise CSR system to manage their organisation’s end-to-end processes.

At the time of writing, the CSR business domain is fairly young and still maturing. They are different understandings about CSR and what it involves. However, the commonly accepted key CSR areas are:

  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Social Baseline
  • Social Investment
  • Land Access (compensation resettlement)
  • Local Employment
  • Local Business Development
  • Land Management
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Biodiversity
  • Compliance Management
  • Land Rehabilitation and Site Closure
  • Performance Reporting
  • Carbon Footprint Management

In an Enterprise CSR solution, these processes are integrated together and they access the same data from a central database.

So what are the benefits of implementing a comprehensive CSR system?

A CSR system manages a lot of data, and the more a company integrates the data driven by CSR policies and programs, the more benefits there are to be derived. A CSR solution will help a company to meet its social and environmental performance targets. An Enterprise CSR Solution will contribute to a company’s sustainability by providing managers with reports and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that will help ensure and demonstrate transparency, and measure the efficiency and impact of their projects. CSR solutions also introduce “best practices”, which are practices that are found to be the best way to perform certain processes in the industry.

One of the first steps essential to the preparation for the implementation of a CSR system is the development and presentation of a strong business case.

When it comes to timing, companies need to make their move early. Managers need to read the signs that they are outgrowing their current systems and practices, and act before it is too late. Indeed, despite the cost of implementing an Enterprise CSR system, the cost of delaying it is likely to be higher. An Enterprise CSR system is often considered a strategic investment and the project may have tangible and intangible benefits.


Risk Management:

  • Maintenance of a Social License to Operate – maximising production times and preventing loss of access to sites
  • Decreased penalties and project delays due to non-compliance
  • Avoid overpayments and corruption, through rigorous approval processes
  • Improved management of commitments and issues

Improved efficiency:

  • Improved and centralised access to information and integrity of information
  • Simplified and faster, while more rigorous, processes based on industry best practices
  • Corporate reporting with aggregated data and KPIs
  • Improved results from external audits and decreased corrective actions, through providing a high transparency process and ability to demonstrate undertaken actions
  • Decreased actions and cost to address grievances and incidents
  • More effective vehicle for communication and decision-making
  • Transition from reactive to pro-active organisation
  • Consolidate ability to raise funds by providing transparent and auditable processes

Human Resources:

  • Improved cost, workforce and time efficiency, along with recruitment and retention
  • Increased staff expertise

Brand differentiation:

  • Reputation for integrity and best practice, and potentially for environmental
    sustainability, community involvement and ethical marketing practices
  • Increased opportunity to become the business of choice, through support from communities
  • Improved supplier relations and management

Other cost savings may be derived from less rework, quality assurance, document printing, etc.

Statistics on the cost of these things are often readily available and can be used to put hard numbers into and consolidate a Business Case.

How to select a CSR solution?

The risk of selecting an unsuitable CSR solution is real. It is important to pay attention to the company’s processes and needs over the long-term, and to the features of the system. The decision must be based on what is known at the time and what can be predicted about the future. It is preferable to acquire the most optimal solution for the company’s need, rather than an inexpensive one. Money saved in the wrong areas, might later prove costly.

Selection Criteria

  • The vendor must have plenty of experience and good references
  • The solution addresses the functionality requirements and is easy to configure
  • Ability to provide versatile and comprehensive reports
  • Built-in best practices based on international norms and standards, such as IFC, Equator Principles, ISO, ICMM, IPIECA, GRI, etc.
  • Be aware of response times over slow networks, off-line capability and system scalability
  • Support multi-lingual, multi-currency, multi-localisations and/or multi-time-zones
  • Integrated Mobile solution
  • Comprehensive and integrated / Enterprise solution
  • Compatibility with company’s Standard Operating Environment (SOE)
  • Carefully weigh the decision about the SaaS or cloud versus on-premises offering
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a number of years, usually 5 years, and Return On Investment (ROI)
  • Whether the vendor provides CSR services in addition to the software, such as on-the-ground surveying and consulting.
  • Availability of warranty period, and support and maintenance packages

Some common mistakes in selecting a CSR system are:

  • Incomplete requirements
  • Over-reliance on vendor demos
  • Over-emphasis on system cost
  • Selection bias and failure to use objective professional services
  • Inability to understand the offering by the CSR solution vendor
  • A proper system selection methodology includes a list of selection criteria.

An organisation should have a clear vision of why it is embarking on such a project and what are the business objectives for it. The challenge is to smoothly change from the old way of doing things to the new system and practices.

Step 2 – How to prepare the Scope?

A high-level scope has most likely been established with the Business Case and now a scoping study may be performed in order to elicit the detailed scope for the project.

Alternatively, the scoping study could come prior and the results used for the Business Case.

In any case, a scoping study is strongly recommended to ensure the project delivers against the objectives and benefits, while maximising the strength of the selected solution.

Scoping Study

A detailed scope or high-level requirements will ideally be elicited up front in accordance with both the business objectives and end solution in mind. Implementing a CSR system is an opportunity to have a good hard look at the company’s CSR processes, and establish how they can be improved and supported by the system.

The scoping phase serves to anchor the project priorities, helping to define appropriate functionality and business process improvements, matching current business processes with provided best practices. Scoping will unearth information about the needs and motivations of stakeholders. It will consolidate the project boundaries and objectives, and allow the mapping of opportunities for improvement.

In this objective, scoping workshops will be held with primary and ideally secondary stakeholders. They will be reflected back in a scoping document, which will map the project objectives and recommendations, provide high level plans for content, delivery, timeframes and budget, and can include workflow maps and diagrams when appropriate.

Scoping workshops should form the foundation of an implementation project. They provide a structured framework for idea generation and dialogue, create a shared project vision and facilitate exploration of possibilities. It can also be a fantastic team building exercise.

Consultants will lead such workshops, in order to bring expertise of the CSR solutions, while facilitating the communication and gently directing discussions and ideas.

In preparation or as part of the scoping study, it is recommended to identify all the data sources. This will provide good information on where are some opportunities for improvement, and also to establish the data quality and the need for data cleansing.

Step 3 – How to prepare the budget?

The process to establish a CSR solution implementation project budget will require careful planning to ensure that the needed information has been gathered and buy-in from significant stakeholders is gained.

Very few companies can use a CSR solution right out-of-the-box. The system will most likely need to be tailored to company’s requirements, in order to adapt it to the company’s vocabulary and processes… While companies want to take on board the best practices built-in to the CSR solution, they also want to minimise the changes for themselves, as these changes can prove to be much more costly than adapting the software.

How will you know if you have been successful in creating an accurate budget for your project?

When preparing the budget, consideration needs to be given to the fact that the successful implementation of a CSR system without expertise is almost impossible. You will need to anticipate and prepare for the use of Consultants and Subject Matter Experts (SME) to facilitate a more effective implementation. Remember to be prepared for their arrival, so you can maximise their productivity while on-site. In this objective, things that are likely to be required are:

  • Internet access (maybe Wi-Fi) for access to files, environments, information, etc.
  • Meeting rooms with a projector or large screen and dry erase board for demonstrations and collaborative work
  • Appropriate working space, with desks and monitors for work on-site

Note that Consultants will usually bring their own laptop to perform their work.

These are items that you may need to consider for your budget or that will be included in the quote from your CSR system provider, in order to implement a CSR system:

  • Software licenses
  • Infrastructure or hosting services – different environments will be required, such as Development, Quality-Assurance, UAT, Training, Production, etc.
    With hardware and network, sometimes purchasing multiple years of maintenance and support will provide savings versus purchasing one year at a time. Ensure your networks are adequate for supporting your implementation and the long-term use of the product.
  • Consultancy time for a scoping study and then to elicit high-level and detailed requirements documentation and user documentation
  • System configuration and testing to company’s requirements if needed
  • Training and logistics – CSR systems are only effective if they are utilised properly. An Enterprise CSR system will require proper training to be utilised most effectively
  • Deployment and roll-out. There may be several sites involved, in which case it is sometimes recommended to roll the system out in stages
  • Project management
  • Change management, in order to manage the resistance that comes with the change inherent to the introduction of new processes and a new system, even when based on best practices

Business SMEs Involvement

Business SMEs will be required from the start, in order to help document the requirements, during the project in order to respond to questions, make decisions and validate the configuration as it progresses, and to the end in order to perform the User Acceptance Testing.

It is important that the configuration is validated along the way, so that discrepancies and defects are found early on, when there is still time and options to address them. Indeed, when problems are found towards the end of the project, the only option left is often to postpone go-live and find space in the budget in order to achieve the desired result, or alternatively to have a second phase.

It is usually a good idea to have Business SMEs on the project on a part-time basis, as they inevitably have their own day-to-day work to do. 50% of the time is usually a good ratio, in order to keep them motivated and to the point. You may want to consider backfilling Business SMEs, so the day-to-day work keeps being done, relieving the pressure to perform two jobs at once. The other reason is that if Business SMEs don’t have the time to put into the project, it is a recipe for failure, with no-one available to tell and check what is needed.

  • Don’t forget that company Business Subject Matter Experts (SME) will be required for the length of the project. The budget for this may need to come from the project budget.
  • Should you include a budget for Conferences?… Major CSR software vendors have conferences to help users learn about the product they purchased, to provide information and roadmap about new functionalities and to further people’s expertise in the business domain.
  • Contingency for changes posed by users or by changes in the political or economic environment

Step 4 – How to prepare for Project Management?

There is potentially a lot to say about project management, but the implementation of an enterprise CSR solution should not be different from any other significant or large software development project.

Here is an example of project processes and deliverables:

As a project Manager, you want to network as a salesman, in order to maximise your chances to get things done. Be an inspirational Leader: minimise management effort, maximise communication, take the time to think and tackle the real problems!

It is recommended to implement budget management and audits. Have a nominated Project Sponsor to approve expenditures. Have a Project Steering Committee, usually chaired by the Project Sponsor, in order to follow up on progress against the benefits and make the decisions to steer the project to completion.

As the requirements get written, it is very important to establish the traceability between the requirements and the scope. This is in order to monitor the progress against the scope and also to monitor scope creep.

During the project, you may want to control hours and rate changes. Determine if Consultants’ rates include travel. Be aware of the common practice of including an annual rate increase. You may want to cap the number of hours consultants can do per week… However this number may need to be revised as the project progresses and deadlines approach.

Here is a typical project team organisation:

About risk management, the 4 categories of risks to be considered for an Enterprise CSR system implementation are:

  • the technology risk – fit with current corporate infrastructure
  • the organisational risk – how much change to the organisation vs software
  • the people risk – about training, re-skilling and resistance to change
  • the project size risk – management control structure and communication

There would be a lot to say about Quality Assurance… It could be a white-paper on its own. In short, testing is extremely important, but is not the only thing to consider. The quality of the requirements is also paramount.

The roll-out of the system should not be done during the busiest season and it can be done step by step, for example one function at a time. Consider also the handover to support as part of the roll-out.

Step 5 – How to prepare for Benefits Realisation?

When the use is established and the system is being properly utilised, the original business objectives should be revised and the measurable objectives should be measured. Measurements may be performed at different time intervals, in order to record evolution over time. It is recommended to establish a baseline, before the system is implemented.


    • A given team’s output measurably increased for using the system… They performed 50% more assessments in the 6 months after the system was rolled-out.
    • The number of grievances being raised or the number of non-compliances is decreasing systematically since using the system.
    • The users’ satisfaction or morale, measured through formal surveys, has increased by 50%.

Step 6 – How to prepare for the long-term?

Finally, don’t forget that the project may last for a few months only, but the system will likely be in place for 10 years or more. So you may want to build a long-term relationship with the vendor.

Some vendors are willing to establish a mutually beneficial partnership type relationship with your company, in order to help you maximise the return on your investment. This might involve attendance to regular meetings at different levels within the company, the establishment of user forums, or the contribution to the product roadmap for example.

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15 May 2011

Communication Tips

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 15:41

As a Project Manager, I usually refrain from asking people to work harder… I prefer to invite them to think harder!…

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23 September 2010

How to deal with your PM

Filed under: Business Analysis,Project Management — Tags: — admin @ 21:44

I sometimes have discussions with people who are facing challenges when dealing with their Project Manager. Here are some tips that one may find useful.

I hear you say:

  • The PM is shallow. He has little knowledge and understanding about what we’re doing.
  • The PM is bossy. She wants to decide about everything.
  • The PM is phony. His thanks are over the top and patronizing.
  • She takes my work and run it around without asking me. It’s not even finished.

Project Managers are drivers per character. This means that they are doers and they want to:

  • be in charge and in control
  • be centre of attention
  • be respected
  • get things done

They are good at:

  • organizing things
  • checking and following-up
  • persisting and pushing
  • getting the job done
  • focusing and delivering
  • quick to get it and quick to make decisions

They are ambitious and competitive. They tend to fight with other drivers. Their worst nightmare is to lose face (e.g. be proven wrong in public). Of all the characters, the drivers are the ones who know themselves and others the less, on average. They have difficulties listening to others. They like and need support. Drivers are usually protective of people who support them.

In the IT industry, Business Analysts and Developers can be perfectionists. This means that they dislike being put under pressure. They like to be given the time to do things properly. They judge people by how much they know.

Project Managers usually aren’t perfectionists and no matter how much they know, they cannot know as much as all the individuals in the team. Drivers judge people by how much they do.

Get to know your PM… In order to help improve the relationship with your PM:

  • You may want to take on yourself to improve his knowledge and provide information in the form of summaries where you can. Team Wikis and/or regular information emails can yield good results.
  • Try to influence her while letting her make the decision. Don’t put yourself in opposition to her decision, especially not in front of other people. Tell her that you will think about it. Then later, without witness, argue your point by providing additional information, and allow her to change her mind while saving face.
  • You will impress him by responding promptly to his requests and volunteer feedback on progress for longer assignments.
  • Keep her informed as to how much work you’ve been doing on a regular basis. It can take the form of daily emails for example.
  • Don’t tell long stories. Get and stay to the point. 

Tips for the PMs:

  • Endeavor to know yourself – you will always be “bossy”, but you can be refined instead of in your face. Read about the different characters.
  • Endeavor to know about the project and what the team is doing. Read and read some more.
  • Trust and empower your team… Refrain from deciding all the time. How do you feel when your Manager wants to decide about everything?
  • Good Managers are flexible and understanding with their team. They know how to avoid hurting the motivation of team members.
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19 September 2010

Tips to survive difficult workplaces

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 09:04

I’ve gathered in this article a number of reflections based on experience in difficult workplaces, which may be helpful to someone trying to succeed or simply survive…

  • When someone fiercely criticises others, including yourself, on a regular basis in meetings or when making presentations, this means that this person is lacking in self-confidence and is likely to be under a lot of pressure themselves.
    On the spot, address the criticism. It does not matter if you’re right or wrong. Just don’t let him or her get away with it. Confront them assertively.
    For next time, invite the person officially to contribute feedback in private, before the meeting or the presentation. Give them a lot of importance and the opportunity to comment once for all. Once they’ve been involved officially and their name is on the paper, they will defend it.
  • Kindly doing deeds for a person that is negative towards you, even when you don’t feel like it, will make them feel they owe you in return and is very powerful to make them change their mind towards you.
  • Being loyal to a manager means resolving misunderstandings or conflicts with him direct and in private, always, even when it requires courage. Speak openly. Expose your feelings. Never seek help with his manager or anybody else. In case of a heated argument, it is recommened however to wait until things have cooled down.
  • When a document needs to be reviewed, ask your manager if he/she wants to review it first, even if you think that they are busy or they’re not interested, as they may cope some of the blame if the document is to be criticised.
  • Introduce yourself spontaneously to people you don’t know in the workplace, show interest and make them feel welcome. They will have a lasting good first impression. In the contrary, they might develop uncertain and uncomfortable feelings towards you, especially in a difficult workplace.
  • Be assertive and firm with agressive people. Stand your ground. Respond however to attacks with the same intensity, not weaker nor stronger. It is a difficult equilibium to achieve, but the only one that may yield positive results in the long term.
  • Avoid complacency and look for opportunities to learn and improve all the time. Read, read and read some more.
  • Prefer face to face or even phone to email. In any way, don’t send an email to anyone with your boss or his boss in copy, unless it is a complement or very positive feedback. It will most likely be received as an attack on the other side, whatever your intention was in the first place.
  • If you are to give negative feedback about someone, make sure there is at least one person with some influence that is of a similar opinion. Be also very mindful of people networks. 
  • If you suddenly feel uncomfortable or somewhat embarrassed when having to express yourself or make a decision, it is a sign and one should trust his/her gut-feels. Take the time to understand where the feeling is coming from first, in order to have a clear view.
  • Evaluate the tasks that are given to you conscienciously, using your values in life as a reference. It is OK to decline to do some things based on your values.
  • One needs to have a good relationship with most of the managers above, in oder to have a chance to be promoted one day. This will be consolidated however by the good relationships established with the rest of the staff.
  • Respond to emails… acknowledge reception first if the reply is to take more than a couple of hours. Don’t let them wondering.

I also recommend the book Coping with Difficult People.

Finally and in general, it is recommended to stand on the side of over-communicating with kind and polite manners all the time.

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27 March 2010

Earned Value and Tolerance, using critical path

Filed under: Project Management — Tags: — admin @ 09:09

When reporting on earned value, more often than not, the project is slightly behind the original plan and the earned value is below the planned value.
How does the project manager and the project stakeholders know if the variance is within the tolerance of the project or not? What is the bottom-line?…

The project critical path can be used, in order to represent the tolerance threshold, as in the example below.

Values for the chart can be automated using MS Project and MS Excel… See previous post on earned value calculation

For more information contact us – jjacquet AT

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7 March 2010

Waterfall, Iterative or Agile?

Filed under: Project Management — Tags: — admin @ 16:33

With a waterfall approach, one wants to have as close as possible to 100% of the requirements up-front. The challenge in this case is fairly obvious. Getting 100% of requirements documented on a fairly complex system is no easy task and is rarely achieved in practice.

With an iterative approach, I will kick-off the development with 80% of the requirements up-front. Knowing Paretto’s (80%-20%) rule, it makes a lot of sense! The rest of the requirements can be elicited during the development, and a lot of time can be saved this way.

If an Agile approach is to be implemented, I will start the development with less than 20% of the requirements and the scope being defined. In this case, on basically unearth the requirements by putting prototypes in front of the Customer and getting feedback. The prototypes are refined as the development goes, and become an application overtime.

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17 January 2010

Successful Project Management

Filed under: Project Management — Tags: , — admin @ 09:22

One may notice that everyone, in every area of life but more so in project management, claims to be successful and, more often than not, successful only…
How good someone really is, who has never experienced failure, I ask?

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and this means we perform better in some situations than others.

Have you ever noticed that when their is a problem (and there’s always one), most consider self as being outside of the problem, while everybody else considers you as being part of it?

Successful people take ownership of the problem at hand…

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12 September 2009

The under-estimated benefits of components

Filed under: UML — Tags: , , , — admin @ 18:02

Components Based Architecture has been formalised and publicised by UML-RUP more than 10 years ago, and the benefits of this approach are still unknown or under-estimated by most.

It escapes me how, in the 21st century, enterprises can ignore the return on investment (ROI) that can be achieved with components.

The most commonly missing piece in the software engineering puzzle today is the architecture document. I keep seeing projects after projects documenting detailed designs after gathering the requirements and no architecture.

When no components based architecture exists, Managers are reduced to finding and selecting solutions at project level.
With well documented components, encapsulating meaningful functionality, it is for example possible to:

  • Find Commercial-Of-The-Shelf (COSTS) solutions for one or several components.
  • Outsource the development of low added-value components.
  • Reuse components from other applications within the company.

Components are however a science and there is more to it than what meets the eye…
See previous article RUP – Component Based Architecture

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