Organization, documentation are keys
to revitalizing a mired system project


A Fortune 100 financial services company needed to update crucial analysis and reporting systems. As a leading benefits and pension fund investment manager for universities, the company has an 80 percent share of its market.

To best advise customers, the firm was using an intelligence tool that provided an analysis of a university’s investment plan. The system provided a snapshot of the health of the plan, including analysis of demographics, gender of participants, participant contributions, plan assets and other data. The analysis helped benefits administrators fine-tune their future plans. In addition, the system collected business intelligence from a select group of competitors so clients could benchmark their plans.

The reporting system, however, had become dated, inflexible and limited in scope. The company began a project to create a modern software system to replace outdated manual processes. But after two years, the new system had still not been completed.

The firm brought in Blue River International to get the project back on track.


After discussions with technical and business departments, we soon found that the requirements and expectations needed to be updated and redefined to provide a clearer picture for the technical staff. Various elements – such as graphs, pie charts and other material – were vague and poorly defined. The result was a great deal of confusion among the technical staff.

Because the project had severely bogged down, motivation was waning within the team and the company itself.


Blue River’s consulting team quickly became an integral part of the client’s team. As a product and business project manager, our consultant was able to collaborate with internal stakeholders to make changes in the project.

We began by analyzing competitor reports and consulting business experts to update requirements that reflected current market trends and expectations. We wrote business use cases, redefined vague data points and updated the requirements to align the IT solution with business expectations. As a result, we were able to design a high-level project plan with achievable deadlines.

Next, we created an RFP and selected a vendor to help with software development, taking pressure off an overtaxed internal IT team.

We also followed software development lifecycle (SDLC) methodology to write functional and technical design documents. The internal IT staff was assigned responsibility for project management of the software delivery.

A prototype system was developed and demonstrated to executives and other users to confirm the output met expectations. The prototype also showed all departments that the project was progressing, building confidence among stakeholders.

Marketing and branding experts, as well as external design firms, were engaged to ensure the final product had appropriate marketing collateral and met regulatory requirements.
The new system was designed to generate a complete document based on a customer’s data. It also allowed customers to customize reports for their specific needs.

Dry runs were staged to ensure that new data servers met usage loads and that the underlying database was fast and reliable. Actual data was used to generate reports to make sure the system met the initial requirements. During the testing phase, IT teams documented bugs and their fixes.

Finally, marketing materials were created and internal websites were updated with the new reporting system. Webinars were conducted in conjunction with the training department to teach the system to internal users.

Today, the system is a one-stop shop for generating reports for the company’s customers.

The successful launch of the product bridged the gap between the IT and business departments with strong documentation, iterative analysis and improved communication. Iterative development, using mock-ups and working prototypes, led to universal acceptance within the company.

The final product introduced features that were well ahead of the company’s competitors. Today, the system is a de-facto standard for generating client reports that can run upwards of 100 pages.