December is often a crunch time in projects as teams work hard to achieve their milestones and go on holidays. This is all a given but what jolted me recently was how the obvious, ie ‘people make the difference’, was recently played out in so many ways. It’s people that determine the success or otherwise of a project, not technology. Granted, there are rare cases where a project stalls due to a technical issue, but in most cases people determine success or otherwise.
In a recent request for tender for an ERP upgrade, the customer requested “please include the issues you most frequently encounter when upgrading an ERP site, the associated ramifications and how they can be avoided or mitigated.”
What a great question.
The sales person responding to the RFP surveyed our consulting team. Normally we would review project documentation, however by surveying the consulting team we got back some surprising results that are not always obvious in the written reports. It’s all about the people.
The responses ranged from significant to the not so serious but it was fundamentally about how people were included and interacted with the project. One of the less profound examples, but vital to success, is about planned versus actual availability of people to the project. Ensuring resources do not have annual leave when required on a project, is step one. It could be necessary to ensure that person’s ‘day job’ is back filled. If a key project person is responsible for the month end processes and reporting, this will have an impact on the project if the need for month-end responsibilities are not dealt with.
The success of UAT is driven by people and for effective UAT the team members will need to be trained. People need to be briefed that UAT is hard core serious, UAT determines go /no-go decisions, so when UAT has not been treated seriously there are unpleasant and unhelpful project outcomes when issues arise during cut over to live.
Communication across the business is essential. Sometimes an upgrade is treated less seriously than a new project, so the upgrade project may cut corners on issues such as effective communication to, or training of, people. Almost invariable there will be changes arising from the updated ERP and these changes need to be communicated. The project suffers if the changes are only made obvious during or after go live.
We have just released the 2013 iPOS user survey and the top two challenges to implementing IPOS for SunSystems were, changing people behaviour (81%) and cultural change across the business (56%). Surprise surprise. People. ‘Migration for previous system’ was a paltry 13%.
In answer to “things to do differently if I had my time again” the survey was unsurprising about getting people onboard. Fifty six per cent nominated improved and earlier communication to all stakeholders; 56% would aim for increased, multi level and mandatory role-based training; 47% would have a more focussed project team.
The survey neatly summed the impact of people by referencing DeBono Heller “78% of business initiatives fail due to lack of people, process and communication.” (My emphasis.)
The 2013 survey was compiled from 20+ one-on-one interviews with the senior business leaders responsible for implementing procurement across the organisation. Their experiences and insights provide a list of powerful tips to harness success by focusing on people. These tips where in response to procurement projects but the lessons are applicable to any IT project. I have generalised the comments for all IT projects.
- Have a strong governance model in place; the software application is an enterprise tool with far reaching consequences.
- Hold monthly forums to discuss performance, areas for improvement and change roadmap.
- Have an effective new employee training program rather than a quick handover by the person leaving the role.
- The software application has a large amount of touch points in a business; you need an adequate change management plan for all the different types of users and stakeholders, including suppliers.
- The general workforce needs to be aligned with the management goals.
- Get senior management buy-in to drive accountability at local level and they must lead from the front. People are quicker to change when they see their managers changing as well.
- Involve the business in your UAT to increase buy-in. Purchasing is not a finance function, the business divisions need to engage with the new processes and practices.
People make your organisation successful and different. I believe absolutely that it is up to you to make sure your people make your IT implementation or upgrade a winner.
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