Some may be familiar with the various forms of Project Management Triangle ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_triangle ) used in project management as a way to describe the high interdependence between scope, cost and schedule in delivering a quality project outcome. Over the years I've evolved my own little model that helps describe the interdependent dimensions that need to be 'sorted' to have a quality outcome in ICT4D interventions. I call it the ICT4D Quality Diamond and I use it in many different ways. A few of them are:
- As an initial risk assessment tool before undertaking a new intervention or a new phase in an intervention.
- As a communication device to present a structured analysis to stakeholders and to manage unrealistic expectations on just what they are getting themselves in for.
- As a guiding framework in doing capability maturity modelling when evaluating the status of ongoing ICT4D operations.
The model has four interdependent dimensions to it:
- Dimension 1: Robust & appropriate technology/software components
- Dimension 2: Robust business process & data design
- Dimension 3: Senior executive sponsorship, support and management priority
- Dimension 4: Extensive training/mentoring arrangements
The short version of the story is that failure is guaranteed if each of these dimensions are not actively realised, implemented and appropriately managed. I believe the fact that the failure rate of ICT4D is so high is because overall, these dimensions are not adequately realised in the first instance let alone implemented and appropriately managed.
Typically, starting from the program design process onwards, all or most of the focus is on dimension 1 and usually without much thought to the "robust & appropriate" bit. It is often a big challenge to influence stakeholder expectation to take in the broader view and to provision adequately for the natural consequences of it.
Using this model as an initial risk assessment tool has often led to the situation where I have had to recommend in good consciousness that the project not proceed and that I am not willing to work on it because certain failure is in no ones best interest. Typically there are three responses from key stakeholders on receiving this advice:
- They take on board the risk implications and make the appropriate resource and management adjustments to account for the challenges across the dimensions. Then the work can proceed with a new and more appropriate consideration for the task ahead.
- They take on board the risk implications and decide that not going ahead is the prudent approach.
- They don't take on board the risk implications and look somewhere else for someone who will just do the work without making them feel uncomfortable/exposed about any perceived inadequacies in designs/plans/contracts undertaken so far.
There is an issue in ICT in general and in ICT4D more specifically - a pervasive assumption amongst ICT and non ICT people that ICT is about technology. It isn’t! The technology is the easy bit compared to everything else that needs to be in place to make it work in a social and management context. In international development, this assumption all too often governs approaches to development design, planning and implementation processes with a predictable end result. I believe this puts a big responsibility on the shoulders of ICT4D professionals to “tell it like it is” even at the risk of outcomes 2 and 3 and not getting the work.
I thought it may be useful to do a blog entry on each of the four dimensions of the model to explore the key issues of each in more depth. Stay tuned.
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