Field Notes: My Life with pi

Flooded basements are the worst. And it was happening more often in my neighborhood each spring. Thankfully, the city had undertaken the project of changing out the sewers along with other infrastructure improvements. Woo hoo! Much overdue and needed.

I was ready for the three months of inconvenience: loud machinery, digging and jack-hammering, traffic re-routing and constant dust.

Six months later, the street was still dug up. The dust became mud and it tracked all through the house. The machinery became targets to dodge during the walk home from my car parked two blocks away. I was starting to think the yearly spring flooding was not so bad after all.

A six month delay with cost overruns may be appropriate for big city public projects due to inclement weather and underground soil issues; but should not occur on implementing and updating HCM infrastructure.

I have been implementing Human Capital Management software for over 14 years. In that time, I have seen projects go over budget and over timelines a few times. Projects begin with the best intentions and excitement, but can quickly turn to a delayed, muddy and noisy hubbub of an experience with questions as to why they ever began.

A quick reality check up front can make all the difference.

I learned a valuable tip early on in my career. My director had just finished reviewing my delivery estimates and gave me a puzzled look, asking “Are you sure about these numbers?” I was sure about all my estimates: I had clear work breakdown structure and a defined critical path. My risks, assumptions and constraints all lined up. Yet, the timelines were based on how long it would take me to accomplish the tasks, not the client’s team. I forgot to factor in that the client’s implementation tasks usually fit on top of their daily tasks. The director gave me one piece of advice that I use to this day: when fitting client timeline estimates into your plans, multiply these client side activities by pi.

In my experience, most implementations start believing they are “standard”, but end up with the same inclement weather and soil issues, nuances and surprises, which must be solved in order to meet an organization’s business needs. I’ve learned when providing estimates for client-side activities a good rule of thumb is to multiply that time by pi.