Enterprise Compliance Today

Project Risk: The 5 most common mistakes implementing software

Posted by Greg Carroll on Fri, Apr 04, 2014 @ 06:00 PM

Whilst the IT Industry has to bear the brunt of the responsibility, it is your business and your job that wears the consequences, and therefore it is in your best interest to intercede in the process to ensure your best possible outcome.


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In my 30 years’ experience implementing ERP, Logistic, and Network solutions, in addition to our current Risk & Compliance products, as both substantial enterprise or minor niche solutions, in corporate and public organisations, the one constant has always been that the initial high expectations are followed by a sense of lack of fulfilment on completion.  And here I am NOT talking about the 40% of software implementations that fail, but of the remaining 60% classed as successful. 

Whilst the IT Industry has to bear the brunt of the responsibility, it is your business and your job that wears the consequences, and therefore it is in your best interest to intercede in the process to ensure your best possible outcome.

Just as a politician with a mistress or a celebrity out on the town, fail to see the potential disaster ahead, so do most managers responsible for a system implementation.   The post mortem that follows a disaster, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, invariably highlights mistakes as poor judgement and it is this stigma of poor judgement that will sink your future prospects, not your involvement in the project.  This is why savvy public officials build a portfolio of defences (targeting blame) throughout a project, but still tend to suffer the same fate as the innocent ineffectual bunny.  To achieve senior management levels, you need to be seen as having reliable good judgement. 

Looking at it another way, with such a poor outcome expectation, truly successful implementations are generally held up as shining lights which also lights up your career prospects.  To use that terrible “Americanism” you have an opportunity not a problem.  So let’s look at the 5 most common mistakes that you can easily avoid and improve your chances to making it into the senior executive echelons.

  1. Identifying requirements

    1. The number 1 mistake starts, as most do, at the very beginning.  Knowing your businesses functional requirements is important, just as knowing how to balance the company accounts is important to the CFO.  But that does not ensure the success of the business.  To be successful, the CFO starts with identifying the Corporate Objectives, their relevant risk strategies and KPIs to track and report success performance. 

    2. So it is with an IT Project.  Identify how the project will influence your organisation’s corporate objectives and how you can prove that the results of the project have assisted those objectives.  This is your pathway to appreciation by senior management.

    3. Finally delegate the development of functional requirements to subordinates and have them match them back to your list of corporate objectives and KPIs.

  2. Selecting the right solution

    1. The primary problem is being manipulated by vendors to accept their benefits as what you need.  This is a direct consequence of assessing prospective vendors against functional requirements.  Implementing a good looking functional system that does not achieve a noticeable improvement in corporate objectives, WILL ultimately be judged as ineffectual once its newness wares off.

    2. Don’t be shy giving vendors the list of corporate objective you have identified for the project.  Have them quantify and demonstrate how their solution will achieve improvements to those objectives.  You are now comparing apples to apples instead of this function of one vendor vs that function of another.  Vendors that can’t put their benefits in terms of your objectives can’t help you achieve your goal, so discount them.

    3. Reference checking is about learning how you can work with the vendor not about their products.  You should be only be looking at proven solutions, so don’t waste time on the givens.  Flexibility and knowledge of your business environment is the key to successful partnerships and as in other walks of life, one sided partnerships are doomed to failure so avoid them. 

  3. Method of implementation

    1. It is fairly well accepted that Agile is the best method of implementation so don’t let your IT department push into the old waterfall methodology. It IS a recipe for failure that they can walk away from. I refer you to a previous article I wrote on the subject: IT Temple Of Doom III: Compliance Software Implementation Rules 6-10 .

    2. Project Risk Management is the single thing you can do that will ensure a successful outcome.  Don’t accept a Risk Burndown Chart as “risk management”, it’s not.  Risk Management is about being aware of potential issues that could arise, having good monitoring in place to identify changes in circumstances that could bring them around and having well developed contingency plans to mitigate them when they do arise.  This needs to be your number 1 project management tool, reviewed at the start of every project meeting and a kept up to date, not filed as a box being ticked.

  4. Staff Engagement

    1. At a Microsoft Leading Partners workshop the other week, the facilitator asked who had seen a successful Business Intelligence (BI) implementation.  Out of a room of 25 only 2 hands went up.  This matched the often quoted 70% failure rate statistic for BI. On further questioning of the number of people performing analysis of BI data at those companies, the maximum was 6 people.  All other management where just users of BI reports and that is not a successful BI implementation!  Without wide staff utilisation of a system it is no more than a business toy and not capable of improving Corporate Objectives.

    2. I have previously written extensively on staff engagement and refer you specifically to 2 previous articles, The Secret to Successful Compliance Management? It's Not the System and Gen Y vs. GRC (Governance, Risk & Compliance) that cover the area fairly well. Get staff involved early in the project, genuinely care about their opinions and concerns, and look to provide their benefits first and company benefits subsequent.  You need their momentum to achieve movement on the corporate objectives.

  5. Getting the most out of your investment

    1. There are a number of great clichés that come to mind here:  “the difference between ordinary and extraordinary and that bit extra” and “failure is just giving up before succeeding”.   As mentioned above, the first aim is to provide staff functional benefits, but unfortunately, in the guise of “letting the system bed down”, the subsequent business benefits go on hold and eventually forgotten.  Staff move on, other priorities arise, and project funding is lost.  Again, without noticeable improvement in corporate objectives, the system WILL ultimately be judged as ineffectual.  So close yet so far!

    2. The 80/20 rule applies here, where 80% of the benefits  come from final 20% of effort delivers.  It is imperative to ensure a “Phase II” project is planned and implemented, starting immediately on completion of the initial project to implement business objectives as well as fine tuning.  The risk of it being lost is far greater than from the problem of it being premature.

In the end good Risk Management is having a pragmatic approach to the implementation of effective risk protocols and the above 5 tips are certainly that.  Oh, and for tips 2 and 4 use Fast Track and you’ll also save time with our proven rapid implementation process.

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Tags: risk management, Management & Reporting, project management