The London Stock Exchange has for over 300 years produced detailed market information for companies and investors. Technological innovations have transformed this service and from a bi-weekly paper publication, the LSE today continuously remit electronic information to all the financial markets across the globe in real time. These innovations, however, suffered a major setback when a new computer system commissioned in 1989 ended up to be one of the decade’s biggest failures when its implementation was terminated in 1996.
Transfer and Automated Registration of Uncertified Stock, otherwise known as TAURUS, was a system meant to wholly change the way of conducting business at the London Stock Exchange in 1989, by automating the sale and purchase of securities. Had it succeeded, it would have dematerialized stock certificates and instead, ownership of the various stocks would have run through a computer database, this would have saved the London Stock Exchange millions of pounds annually and further reduced the risk of purchasers going bankrupt before settlement. However, the implementation of TAURUS did not go as planned and was terminated four years after being commissioned. This failure gave birth to CREST, a computer system whose implementation was commissioned by the Bank of England after taking lessons on organizational change and project management from the failure of TAURUS.
Problems that Contributed to the Failure of TAURUS
One of the reasons that led to TAURUS’ failure as a computer system at the LSE was the fact that it attempted to solve too many mini problems. This was as a result of the design and implementation team attempting to take care of most of the individual interests of the players at the LSE. The LSE has many firms whose individual trading methods vary, and the thought of incorporating their needs while keeping the overall objective of the system was far-fetched. The idea that a system should always aim at solving the overall problem by factoring in common minor concerns was basically overlooked in the case for TAURUS (Ackoff, 1989).
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It is a project management policy that one objective is set and all efforts in implementation should be geared towards its achievement. It was therefore a failure on the part of the LSE’s management to be distracted from this, and instead, prioritized individual stakeholder needs. The other problem was the size and structure of the design team. For efficiency, a change implementation team should have very clear structures for a smooth transition, the TAURUS system design team should have been as slim as possible to avoid coding mistakes given that this was a project that would overhaul transactions at the LSE-this was not the case for TAURUS. TAURUS employed hundreds of people, an action that led to numerous coding mistakes and confusion as there was no clear structure of operations. This happened at a time when the world had not fully embraced technology, which was a recipe for failure. That is exactly what happened when several code mistakes appeared in the system.
The other problem against TAURUS was the government interest in the project, which led to the creation of an issue involving a 150-page of document containing complex regulations to be followed. The government’s document was so big that it did not give the design team a free hand to make feasible decisions with regards to the system. The government clearly revealed that the political interests in TAURUS were not comprehensively explored and that adequate stakeholders had been overlooked. It would have been proper to know and clearly define the interest and input of the government. Had this happened, it would have led to a simpler regulatory document that would not only be precise with regards to the design team’s scope of operations, but also acceptable to all.
The design team should have been given the freedom to make realistic alterations in case of a technical difficulty towards the achievement of the overall objective. Having cast on hardline operational regulations, the objective was not easy to realize as every change outside the regulations came with serious legal implications. The strict and complex regulations led to numerous redesigns, causing delays and eventually the project costs went out of control. The design team also made another mistake of choosing the software that needed several modifications to meet the different demands. This meant that they were relying on unproven software, which was very risky.
Reasons for the Success of CREST
CREST, a system that is still in use today, went live in 1996 and was completed within both the allocated budget and schedule. The reason for its success was that its development and implementation team learnt from the mistakes made in implementing TAURUS. CREST had a small staff of just 20, with four to five experienced members supervising the entire project. It had a minimalist approach with a design to perform only a pair of processes, which made up nearly 90% of all transactions of the LSE, unlike the 21 attempted by TAURUS. This meant that the overall project objective was very clear and all the human and material resources were properly directed towards their achievement. The slim design team also meant that modifications were closely monitored which provided minimal room for mistakes. The project equally made use of tested computer software (TCS). The use of TCS in CREST meant that the implementation was done with just a few problems to be solved, and there was no problem in coding-solutions were readily available.
Organizational Change in TAURUS and CREST
An organization must always undergo some kind of change to cope with the dynamic business environment. In the case of the LSE, the need to incorporate technology in its operations was inevitable at the end of the 1980s. However, this change was resisted the end result was the failure to implement the multi million pound TAURUS project for a few reasons. One, there was no proper structure to implement the new system. TAURUS was a mandatory system and needed to accommodate the interests of all stakeholders who severally and individually had an idea of their own inputs. The management of the LSE should have spent time and resources in identifying the common individual needs of these stakeholders to design a system that could have addressed the common needs. If this were the case, TAURUS’ design team would have worked towards achieving what CREST later achieved. It is by failing to address these common needs that individual players at the LSE insisted on their inputs to be incorporated into the system and still achieve the overall objective.
Two; change will always be resisted in any organization by people who feel that the new order is not in their best interests. The LSE management had no clear structure or definitive planning strategy. The project was carried out in fragments without bringing it together and this was bound to cause delays as merging fragments of the system that may not be fully compatible could lead to further re-writing complications. This gave room for speculation with regards to system mismanagement. Some stakeholders thought that if this system had been successfully implemented then it could have had an effect on power as a way of getting rid of their jobs, and the whole LSE process would be completely changed. This thought created an enemy within, thence implementation could not have been successful.
The appropriate mode of action was for the management to conduct education to the stakeholders and familiarize them with the new way of transaction with the aim of letting them know that computerization was a tool that would improve how they did business at the LSE and not an impediment as they thought. This would have helped in the stakeholders embracing and offering support to the implementation of TAURUS. Success of an organizational change is entirely dependent of how much the new way of doing things is accepted by the relevant stakeholders.
Principles and Methodologies of Project Management In The Case Of TAURUS and CREST
The main principles of project management are purpose, relevance, feasibility, accuracy and accountability (Maylor 2005). The main purpose in the case of TAURUS and CREST was to computerize the LSE, a purpose that was achieved by the implementation of CREST, but not TAURUS. It was very important that all the stakeholders understood and embodied this principle and to do so, the management had the task of conducting a project familiarization campaign whose success would be measured by the stakeholders understanding of the projects significance to the current business operations, its contribution to business policies and production of a document with stakeholder recommendations. These parameters would ensure that all interested parties owned and accepted the project. Worries about job losses, shifts in political influence at the LSE upon its implementation would be minimal and the result would be a successful implementation and transition into the new system.
It was equally important that the LSE stakeholders understood the relevance of a computer system to their transaction. One should not be taken by surprise if it emerged that among the stakeholders opposed to the new system were interested groups that did not see the need for TAURUS at the time. It is universally known that change, be it organizational, political or otherwise, will always be resisted by people who cannot see any major differences between the old and proposed new ways of doing things. Having faith in the accuracy accountability of TAURUS would have further facilitated the stakeholders’ acceptance of the system. Interest groups will always want the assurance that the new order is safe for their businesses to be able to build the needed faith and rule out the possibility of other interests taking advantage of the new system. When a majority of stakeholders do not clearly understand a new idea, they are bound to front an opposition up to a point when they understand the pros and cons of the new order in totality. These principles and their parameters must always be taken into account for a successful implementation of a project and when ignored or partially considered, failure is always the end product as was in the case at the LSE.
There are scientifically acceptable methodologies in project implementation and these include:
A project can be broken down into a number of tasks that have to be performed and in the preparation of a project schedule, the project manager has to figure out what the tasks are, how long they will take, what resources they require, and in what order they should be done ( Maylor, H. (2005), Project Management). All these elements have a direct correlation to the schedule. Omission of a task would then lead to the project’s incompletion, underestimation of the length of time or the amount of resources required for the task would also mean missing the schedule. The schedule can also be blown if a mistake in the sequencing of the tasks is made. TAURUS design team had problems with following the critical path because of the large number of staff involved in its design which created duplication of duties and coding problems. This was however not the case in CREST which had a slim design team and for that, CREST went live not only within its schedule but also within the allocated budget.
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A project manager should always build the project schedule by listing in order, all the tasks that need to be completed, assigning duration to each task and allocating the required resources. It is always important to determine predecessors-what tasks must be completed before, and successors-tasks that cannot start until after, for each task. This makes project implementation very simple and straightforward. A typical example is to think of a project as getting dressed in the morning. The task of putting on a shirt may have a longer duration if it is a buttoned dress shirt than if it is a pullover, and it does not matter which order one completes the task of putting on right or left shoe as long as he or she completes putting on pants before starting wearing shoes.
When a project, however big, is looked in such simple terms, success will always be the end result. However, there is always some difficulty in managing a project schedule in that there are seldom enough resources and enough time to complete the tasks sequentially. In this case, tasks have to be overlapped so that several can happen at the same time. Were it not for this sequential running of coding during CREST’S design, it would not have been live in 1996. A Project Manager’s key duty is to manage the critical path and this is what separates the success of a manager.
The biggest material in the TAURUS and CREST project was the staff. Managing human resources entails having the right people, with the right skills and proper tools, in the right quantity, and at the right time. It also means ensuring that those people know what needs to be done, when, and how-and finally, it means motivating them to take ownership in the project too, something that was perfected in the design and implementation of CREST. The opposite was however the case in TAURUS. There were so many people doing the same thing at the same level resulting into multiple mistakes and ultimately failure. Materials also include operation manuals and hardware, computers in the case of TAURUS and CREST. TAURUS had three volumes of specification manuals each two inches thick. This was a recipe for confusion in a project of this magnitude. This further emphasizes on the fact that, for a successful project implementation, a manager must match the right human resource to the correct tools and materials.
Every project task will have a cost, whether it is the cost of the labor hours of a computer programmer or the purchase price of a cubic yard of concrete. In preparing the project budget, each of these costs is estimated and a total figure arrived at. Some of these estimates are likely to be more accurate than others. A company usually knows what it will charge each of its projects for different classifications of labor. Concrete for example, is priced in a very competitive market so prices are fairly predictable. With the numerous modifications to TAURUS’s design software which had not been well tested earlier on and a number of coding mistakes, the cost of implementing TAURUS went way beyond the allocated budget. This was not the case in CREST, the project managers managed every task and with the thin and clear structures in place, the allocated budget was never surpassed. It is therefore important to note that the total project cost can only be contained and properly managed by closely monitoring individual task costs during the implementation process. Therefore, a project manager should not take his or her sights of the performance and costs of component project tasks.
The TAURUS and CREST projects present a wonderful example of issues that should not be overlooked in the implementation of projects and in the process of bringing to life organizational change. It is important to take into account several facts before the implementation of a new idea or way of operations. It is also important that everyone involved understands and is in a position to offer prompt answers to the following questions:
What are the anticipated benefits of the system?
Are there any existing cultural issues that the new order will overhaul? If so, what are they? How can they be overcome?
Are all the stakeholders’ input factored into the new order?
To what extent is the government involved and if not, how can it be involved?
Do the stakeholders understand how the implementation will alter their operation and are they prepared for the alterations?
These are just but a few of the basic questions that the implementation team should be able to confidently give answers to before resources are committed to a project or a new way of doing business. The implementation of TAURUS clearly failed to answer most of the questions and the end result was a totally new computer system known as CREST after several years of wasted man hours, millions of sterling pounds and embarrassment not only to the LSE bur also to the Bank of England.
CREST as a computer system answered most if not all the questions that TAURUS failed to provide. It particularly adheres to the basic methodology of sticking the set critical path as a tool in not only getting the job done in time but also within the allocated budget and with minimal avoidable mistakes. The issue of getting the right number of people holding the required qualifications for the work at hand and making use of the relevant tools was well understood and put in practice in CREST. This is a confirmation that scientifically proven ways of project management should always be put to practice and their strict adherence is what makes the difference between success and failure for a project manager and an organization seeking to implement change.
The project management policy that a singular or a clear list of set objectives should always be in place and all implementation efforts geared towards their achievement is a lesson that can never be taken for granted. As by the saying ‘too many cooks spoilt the broth’ so did the many individual interests at the LSE that contributed to the failure of the implementation of TAURUS. Focus shifted to what was not the main reason for the computer system and confusion followed. It should be understood that organizational change is an inevitable part of business and any institution not prepared for change cannot survive the dynamic business environment today. It is therefore important to take lessons from CREST during and after implementation of a new order to not only improve ways of doing business but to also minimize the huge losses that come with the failure to totally implement a new project or to do it the wrong way.
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