Is Your Implementation Failing? Assess with These 3 Steps

Written By: Brian Potts
Date: January 16, 2021

How do you really know if your ERP or HCM implementation is headed towards success versus failure? Your vendor is telling you everything is on-track, your users are screaming that the sky is falling, and status reports are inconclusive.

To get an initial view of the success (or failure) of your software implementation, consider these three steps:

1) Compare current timeline and budget estimates to actuals: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is so commonly overlooked. While it would be nice to be able to stay on track with the initial timeline and budget throughout the project, that is not always realistic and the goal here is not simply to notate that the budget is off. The goal here is to assess why it is off, by how much, and what adjustments have been made accordingly.

If the project timeline has slowed down and testing is delayed by months due to COVID, for example, this is understandable and does not mean that the project is “failing”. It simply means the timeline, associated costs, and approach need to be modified. If the timeline is off, however, because system users are not showing up for testing or complaining that the “system sucks” and they are refusing to participate, you have an organizational change issue that needs to be addressed. Maybe your system implementer lost a key resource and has delayed progress. Situations like this do happen but should not impact costs (assuming you have a properly negotiated implementation services agreement).

On the cost side, if you have increased scope, onboarded a new sales team, or purchased a new planning module that needs to be integrated, this is justifiable that costs have increased and do not suggest there is any necessary failure to the project. On the other hand, if cost increases cannot be justified, if things are just “taking longer” or tasks are having to be re-done, this might indicate a problem.

2) Complete a user assessment: Ideally, you completed a form of organizational readiness assessment(ORA) earlier in the project, but now would be an ideal time to get some feedback from the user community. Users have a very unique and valuable perspective when it comes to project success. They may not realize the impacts of their frustrations, but if assessed and analyzed, user feedback can be used to ascertain a level of project success. The types of questions you will want to cover are how users feel communication has been surrounding project tasks if they feel they have been provided an accurate level of training for where the project is currently if they have a sense of if the new technology will bring benefit to their job role and if their level of resistance to change has increased or decreased since starting.

Note that the responses to the user assessment will not necessarily tell you specifically where problems lie, but if there is trending towards frustration, resistance, lack of training, and communications you can be assured that the project is not going well.

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3) Analyze project status reports: For starters, if you do not have regular occurring status reports this is a problem in its own. Assuming you have some form of the reporting process, take a look for two key items:

  1. First, check the risk management updates. Counter to popular thought, if you see all “green” across the report and there are zero issues, you have a problem. Unless your project has just begun, there should always be some “yellow” reported and areas that need attention. Green across the board suggests that nobody is taking a proper assessment of risk, and there may be growing issues.
  2. Second, look at the trending from one week to the next. If you find that each week has nearly identical reports, this might suggest that your project is stalling, or you have weak project management. Ideally, you will find completed versus upcoming tasks advancing week to week.

With these quick assessment steps, you should have a sense of if your project is on-track or if there may be issues that need attention. In addition to following these steps, take a gut check. If things are not feeling quite right and you have a sense something is off, continue your assessment until you feel better. This might also be the ideal time to bring in a third-party advisor to run a status check of your implementation. If I can help guide these conversations or ask as a sounding board to support your digital transformation journey – please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Brian Potts

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