IT Project Success – it’s about the tech, right?

Procurement is done. Your organisation has chosen a new ERP system or other core system or upgrade.  The vendor tells you the project steps and key dates. All set to go? …. Not just yet. IT project success depends on more than the core technology. Ask these questions up front:

5 questions to ask before you kick off your big project

  1. Strategy – what part of your strategy will this project deliver? Honestly? How can you be sure that project success means organisational success? Would you stake your reputation on it?
  2. Critical success factors – what do you absolutely have to nail to call the project a success? Think about the biggest potential enablers and constraints?
  3. Project Sponsor – is there an executive who will do everything it takes to make this project succeed? Will they also make the tough decisions if things start going South?
  4. Project Board/Steering Group– does the project sponsor have 2-4 people with the right experience to provide advice and help govern the project? Is at least one an objective outsider?
  5. Scope – Is the scope realistic? Would it make more sense to break a big programme or project into smaller chunks? Have you identified ways to do that later if you need to?

These questions should already have been asked during planning. Even if they were, ask them again now. The initial response may not stand up to close scrutiny.

2 factors that drive the success of ERP and other system projects

Working well with People on projects

Projects implement change. People need to drive that change. People will both oppose and support the change and the change will affect People. The project team needs to work with all those people. The team needs to work with them wisely if the project is to succeed. Some key things to get right when working with people in projects:

  • Identify the stakeholders up front. Discover how to engage with them successfully. Note use of the word “discover”. You can’t just write a stakeholder engagement plan. Approach people and discuss engagement with them. The little things will pay off.
  • Get the right people on your team. That is an important lesson.
  • Plan and execute communication well – and not just the project newsletter, PR stuff. Use clear, plain language with team members, contractors, stakeholders and management. Keep the comms simple, concise and relevant to your audience. Reuse messages where possible to reduce admin.
  • Manage conflict well. Prevent it when possible. Accept it if you can. Deal with it promptly. Rise above it if it is just noise. Success means winning people over, not winning arguments.
  • Manage change proactively. Identify, share and deal with change throughout the project. Don’t be afraid of talking about it. The earlier you do so, the more chances you give the team to succeed.

Having a focus on good Process

  • Every big IT project changes business process.  Is your desired operating model driving this change?
  • If not, how you work will change in ways you don’t yet understand.  That is a big risk.
  • Have you mapped your current and future business processes?
  • Have you done value stream mapping to identify waste in your processes so you can reduce it in future? Are you sure that the new ways of working will lead to business success?
  • How will you make configuration choices if you haven’t workshopped different ways of working first?
  • If you have chosen system x, you should be using a standard process within system x or you will face a lot of cost and complications down the track. Is your business really that unique?

IT project success is not just about IT

IT project success in not just about the tech. Your new information system is a big investment and you need to focus on understanding it and working well with the software vendor and implementation team. Listen to them and understand the product. At the same time, you need to retain a focus on your organisation and its goals. Focus on strategy, process and people too. Find the right people inside your organisation and externally to deliver the full value you seek.

Phil Guerin, Consultant/Director, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2023

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