10 Mar ERP FAIL – PROJECT misMANAGEMENT
Project Management for ERP implementations can best be thought of as being a Goldilocks methodology; it is best done just right.
ERP implementations are incredibly complex and difficult. Just like brain surgery. Un-like brain surgery, no one dies when done poorly.
Too much and you are constantly updating complex project plans resulting in “twitchy” behavior by the implementation team as they struggle to adjust to the “plan of the day”.
Too little and you are flying a private plane without instruments into a thick fog bank. Often with Kennedy-esque results.
Real Life Project Fail
Best real life client excuse for not having a project plan:
“We have never implemented an ERP system before so we don’t know how long individual tasks take”.
Best consultant response to client’s lack of a project plan:
“Good point, but when NASA sent the first man to the moon they had never done that either but I bet they had a project plan”.
Failed ERP Implementation Project Management Methodologies
Also known as project management by Fiat (not the Italian Sports Car), the decree methodology is typically found in organizations that have never successfully implemented a new ERP system but have a senior executive able to divinely identify the correct dates for key project milestones, especially the all-important go-live date.
Often these all seeing and all-knowing executives do such a good job of identifying key project dates by fiat that they are asked to do it again and again and again.
The Martyr Plan
ERP implementations are often run and /or managed by the Heroic Consultant or Martyr. This consultant is often quite knowledgeable but to such a degree that no important work can be delegated to anyone else and all work is important. The heroic consultant is also very busy with little or no time to take on additional tasks or responsibilities.
Projects run by heroic consultants typically proceed at the pace that they are able to complete all of the major tasks that only they can do until they flip into Panic mode.
The Panic Plan
The panic mode of ERP implementation project management happens when the time, patience and money has run out and the new system absolutely, positively has to go live ASAP.
This is the all hands on deck brute force implementation methodology that completely lacks finesse or elegance and is typically accompanied by all-nighters, binge drinking, crying and when the planets align just right, drinking, crying and parking lot fisticuffs.
Ironically, many projects will run major phases of an implementation with repeated martyr to panic cycles.
The IT Plan
ERP systems support the business and should therefore be managed or run by the business. Unless you are a software development company.
IT supports the business. End of story.
The non-ERP Professional PM Plan
Coincidentally I happen to have an Industrial Engineering / Operations Research degree in engineering (IEOR). Part of that educational curriculum involves very sophisticated project management tools and techniques as well as the study of the math and theory behind their use.
In managing complex ERP implementations about 5% of that “stuff” is useful. Much more important is an understanding of what an ERP system does and how its proper implementation is properly de-constructed into phases and tasks that make logical sense.
The Sure Step Plan
Best described as a good legal defense in case of complete project failure.
Real Life Project Fail
Best real life conversation with an executive in charge of a massive ERP implementation failure:
Q: “Do you have a project plan”?
“Do you have annual company picnics”?
“Does the person in charge of those follow some sort of plan”?
Painful lengthy silence.
Prior posts in this series: