News & Views | Project Management

News & Views is published monthly by 180 Systems. Our objective is to provide recent articles to our readers on business technology topics. In some cases, our blog contains a title with a hyperlink to a source article, a quote from the article and our comments. In other cases, we have provided a blog without a hyperlink for original content by 180 Systems. We encourage you to post your own comments. You can also access our blog by topic.

How do you know your implementation project is on track?

ERP, Project Management

You may be hearing that all is well from the executive sponsor and project manager but you still have heard enough horror stories to keep you awake at night. We suggest the following approach:

  • Conduct a confidential survey with staff doing the work. You may be surprised what they say.
  • Look under the covers of the project schedule. Find out whether resources are overbooked and their calendar with planned absences are included. Make sure that you get the variance between budget and actual + estimated time to complete which is not calculated but based on the estimates of the resources doing the work.
  • Review the test plan. This is where the rubber hits the road prior to go-live. You will want stats on all the test scenarios – how many completed, passed, failed or postponed. You will also want to make sure that testing includes an end-to-end test that will simulate what the system will do when you go live, and it needs to include everything – reports, integration, and controls for all processes.
  • Contact 180 Systems for an independent assessment.
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So the project has gone belly-up, what now?

ERP, Project Management

December 3, 2015 from LinkedIn – “…Most SMEs and many larger companies are not experienced in running projects. It is just not something they need to do on a regular basis and certainly not with this much at stake.  An investment in the services of a skilled internal Project Manager is rarely a waste of money. It will often cost you more to skimp in this area and then have to recover afterwards…”

180 View – The author, a business development manager for Pronto Software, makes a number of really good comments on why implementation projects fail and what to do about it. I have acted as an ERP expert witness and have seen just how bad things can get. It is far better to find a solution to the problems than to fight it out in court.

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Demonstration Scripts

ERP, Project Management

A demonstration script is critical to the selection process but there are huge differences on how to do this. Rather than criticize the techniques we have read, I will share our methodology with you:

  1. Two demonstrations – You don’t want to go too deep on the first demonstration unless you are positive that the vendor will not waste your time (or their time)
  2. 1st demonstration – We base it on a small subset of the most important requirements in the RFP and limit the time to about 3 hours. We allocate a certain amount of time to each requirement and then total the amount of time for each section. We provide an agenda that includes the agenda time for each section as well as the scripted time and try to leave a buffer in certain sections.  There are usually 4 vendors invited for this demonstration.
  3. 2nd demonstration – We base it on the AS-IS business process and include sample documents. We ask the vendors to prepare a prototype of the suggested TO-BE business process and to include a certain number of the requirements from the RFP. We are evaluating vendors not just on the strengths of the system but also on their ability to improve business process. There are usually 2 vendors invited for this demonstration which often lasts for a day for each vendor.
  4. Access to clients – The vendors have access to our clients before each of the demonstrations. We want them to have every opportunity to do a great demonstration.
  5. Evaluations - Our clients are asked to note the major strengths, weaknesses and follow-up items by section as well as scoring each section. We do a detailed evaluation which includes notes on each requirement demonstrated as well as an assessment whether it is a strength or a weakness.

Our process is always evolving based on the feedback we get. Recent changes include:

  • Reducing the number of requirements
  • Using Survey Monkey for the evaluations done by our client
  • Adding more buffer time so vendors can make the presentation flow better and let them show off some of the features in the system that may not be included in the script but which they believe are very useful
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How to measure whether an ERP implementation is successful

ERP, Project Management

It’s not time to celebrate when the system goes live. Nor is it time to celebrate even if it’s on time or on budget. It’s only time to celebrate if the benefits in the business case have been realized. Ideally the benefits are in the form of a measurable metric or a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) such as the time it takes to process an order. However many organizations don’t identify these measures of success and even if they do, they promptly forget about them as soon as the implementation starts as they have enough on their plates to consume each day and then some.

So what do you do to keep the KPIs relevant? We recommend that the goal KPIs be embedded in the project from the start so that everyone is aware of them. Subject matter experts involved in designing and testing should be questioned whether the goal metrics are attainable at various times throughout the implementation. Steering committee meetings should include updates of whether the goal metrics are at risk of being attained. Sometimes attaining the goal KPIs puts the budget and schedule at risk. When this happens, you need to get the steering committee to consider budget and schedule variances.

 

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Tips for Implementing Change

Project Management

May 28, 2015 from ProjectManagement.com – “…Organizational change management should begin with a systematic evaluation of the current state in order to determine the need for change. Organizations must also consider the appetite for change and the capability to change…”

180 View – The author provides 8 short and easy to read tips for implementing change. Lack of good change management can lead to disaster for even the best systems. One of the recommendations is to “Assess the capability of the organization to change.” In our opinion any project will fail if the core implementation team does not have the aptitude, time or motivation.

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I Survived an ERP Implementation – Top 10 Gems of Advice I Learned the Hard Way

ERP, Project Management

November 10. 2014 from LinkedIn – “…Why is it that so many ERP implementations go so wrong? In my current role I meet regularly with ERP survivors and casualties. My best but unscientific estimate is that 90-95% of them have horror stories to share…”

180 View – There is a big difference between a horror story and bumps in the road. We would agree that there always bumps in the road. What you need is someone on your team that knows how to adapt or a coach to get you through it – someone like Pat Wade from 180 Systems who has managed ERP implementations for over 20 years. Pat can be reached at pwade@180systems.com or at (416) 560-0591.

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Project Management for an ERP Implementation

ERP, Project Management

180 Systems has now launched a new practice area. The implementation of a new system is a big project and requires skilled project managers. Our clients often don’t have a lot of experience in project management especially related to implementing new systems. The vendors have project managers but their focus is project management of their own resources rather than that of our clients. It is also possible that there are conflicting views of scope between the vendor and our clients. As project manager for our clients, we will ensure that these and any other conflicts are resolved expeditiously and fairly. Our focus is strictly on project management rather than product or system management. The knowledge of the system should be acquired by the internal resources of our clients as this knowledge is vital to the ongoing support of the system.

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Why Big Projects Go Bad

ERP, Project Management

June 26, 2014 from CFO – …In a project’s earliest stages, very little is known about what it will take to execute it. So most companies seek out expert internal opinions — usually from proponents of the project, since they are the most knowledgeable. The problem is bias. Research is clear that project proponents are likely to fall under its influence, favor optimistic outcomes and produce dangerously inaccurate estimates…

Most companies can accurately estimate small projects that may take, say, three to six months, but they are horrible at estimating the time and cost of big ones. There are three key reasons for that…”

180 View – We agree and have learned this lesson based on the school of hard knocks. In a past life, I was responsible for the development of a multi-million dollar system. It was really challenging to get good estimates from the programmers who in the early days of the project don’t know what they don’t know. So we developed tools to assist in the estimates based on the complexity of the system and based on history of similar projects.

The same problem can occur with ERP systems in not scoping the size of the implementation properly. You don’t want surprises during the implementation so analysis is required in advance to ensure the implementers know as much as possible so that they can fix price the implementation.

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BA vs IT in ERP

ERP, Project Management

September 5, 2013 from Toolbox.com – “Which is more important in hiring a consultant for an ERP implementation, someone with strong information technology skills or someone who is a skilled business analyst? The ideal answer is “both”. You want someone who has the computer and technology skills to help steer the implementation and the business analysis skills to help restructure your business process…

The question then, is given minimal abilities in the other area which competency is more important?”

180 View – We are often asked the same thing. We would agree with the author that business analysis skills are more important. There will be the need for some technical/IT skills but this can be outsourced if the needs are relatively small. But the work that the business analysis should not be outsourced as the business analyst(s) are critical to the success of the project and you don’t want to lose their knowledge after the system is implemented.

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Why Do Big IT Projects Fail So Often?

Project Management

October 29, 2013 from Information Week– “…Industry research suggests that large IT projects are at far greater risk of failure than smaller efforts. A 2012 McKinsey study revealed that 17% of lT projects budgeted at $15 million or higher go so badly as to threaten the company’s existence, and more than 40% of them fail…”

180 View – The article is mostly about the Obamacare’s website failure and potential causes. One simple solution to big project failure is to split the project into multiple sub-projects. The article does point out that the Obamacare’s website was underway for more than three years, yet nothing was made available until October 1, 2013.

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