Core banking transformation programmes done well are a heart surgery on the bank, removing the dead tissue and replacing it with healthy vital organs. Done poorly, these programs are absolute buffoonery with practitioners not able to tell the difference between the healthy and the dead organs — and with the sharpest tool being a cudgel.
Yes, some surgeons are needed – but the right kind of surgeons and placed in the right points in the program. Hiring a world renowned toe surgeon will not be of much help during a heart surgery!
Many “best practice” guides to projects will say that the people make the difference on the projects – yet often key people are surrounded by structures that fail to harness the expertise and use it where it’s needed most. Imagine a hospital that hires the best surgeons and has them all running the cafeteria.
Also having too much expertise can be disabling – too many deep subject matter experts concentrated in a specific area results in research and development rather than real progress on the matters at hand.
Where I see these projects really get out of hand is where there are large teams of “generic” resources typically cranking out some form of documents that won’t actually be read in the downstream project phases — yes the individual costs of the team members are low, but so also is the value. And the large team sizes add risk and reduce the manageability of the overall program. I would rather see small pods working closely together forming slightly larger groups. Any team size above 15 should be questioned and scrutinized. Can you imagine a successful surgery that involves over 15 surgeons on a single patient? Or worse, 40 people that have never attempted a surgery before but have read all the manuals and are very confident?
The best formula for success involves experts with practical knowledge that are leading small pods of 4-9 people with multifaceted skills: knowledge of the organization, knowledge of the technologies, knowledge of the industry, with organizational and strong analysis skills working independently but aligned to other pods that each cover a different aspect of the solution. This pod structure also serves to promote cross functional training and skills transfer from the expert to the other pod members — in the small working team much deeper and more meaningful knowledge transfer occurs.