01 March 2004
Closing ranks for automation success
By Norman O'Leary
The recent seemingly endless outpouring of books that convert military lessons into lesson plans for business leaders do not focus entirely on "generals" in industry. Far from it. They provide invaluable messages for managers and individual contributors up and down the line throughout industry—including anyone involved with control or information systems.
The books—such as Business as War: Battling for Competitive Advantage by Kenneth Allard; The Marine Corps Way: Using Maneuver Warfare to Lead a Winning Organization by Jason A. Santamaria, Vincent Martino, and Eric K. Clemons; and Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marine by David H. Freedman—send a clear message that behind every successful battle or automation project there is a closely knit team planning, coordinating, and implementing the project.
Fact is, successful automation projects often have little dependence on the chosen technology. It is far more important to have an effective, determined officer/manager, empowered to achieve clear military/business objectives, working with a team of respected peers.
Successful system integrators have learned (in most cases, the hard way) that a strong foundation will propel an automation project toward achieving stated objectives. Therefore, the suggested approach for any major automation effort is to first establish this solid base—and then advance.
Tips toward building that project plan:
- Assemble a solid team committed and empowered to succeed.
- Pick a "value add" partner who is a veteran of similar campaigns.
- Create focused business objectives, develop a clear automation vision, and then lay out a plan to move forward.
- Don't generate a project requirement list or a functional specification before you clearly understand the goals.
- Your plan may pass your needs analysis and fit in with overall design strategies, but does it meet functional requirements—for now and in the future?
- Don't select hardware first and accept its limitations on your functionality requirements.
- Implement by phases rather than taking the all-out, faster parallel approach. Key lessons acquired during each phase will pay off.
- Select automation guidelines (standards) that facilitate maintainability and continuous improvement, and then follow those guidelines.
- Select the technology that best fits your plans and guidelines.
- Execute using sound, proven practices.
The bottom line is it is much easier to win an automation victory with focused objectives, a clear plan, and uniform equipment. Or, risk losing the battle with weak leadership and no viable strategy.
Behind the byline
Norman O'Leary is executive director of Control and Information System Integrators Association (CSIA), which marks its 10th anniversary in 2004. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (800) 661-4914.
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