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The fundamentals and risks of enterprise projects

January 16, 2020 Article 3 min read
Doug Hockenbrocht Craig Zampa
Large enterprise technology implementations can be overwhelming. With a lot of — expensive — moving pieces, implementation failures are a real risk. Here’s what to be aware of.
staff member reporting info with a chart

There are countless benefits to modern technology, from increased efficiencies, to managing scalable growth, to attracting and retaining the next generation of talent. However, a high percentage of projects are deemed “failures” due to blown budgets, missed deadlines, or simply not having the features and functions to meet original objectives. This often leads to organizations avoiding enterprise technology projects altogether.

With proper planning and an awareness of common challenges, you can achieve a successful enterprise technology implementation.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With proper planning and an awareness of common risks, you can achieve a successful enterprise technology implementation. It’s critical you perform the appropriate diligence to ensure you’re implementing the functional enterprise technology solutions that are best aligned with your business needs. Once that’s occurred, the following areas are vital to success:.

  1. Project initiation: Projects rarely end well unless they start well. It’s crucial you develop a comprehensive project plan with the necessary detail to track progress appropriately throughout the project. In tandem with the project plan, it’s important to develop a well-defined project charter. The project charter should identify your objectives and goals, scope and phases, risks and mitigation strategies, and the project team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This is often the biggest and most common failure we see when helping clients recover unsuccessful projects. Either the core initiation items were not developed, or they weren’t properly applied during implementation.
  2. Project planning: This phase is similar to an architect drawing up a blueprint before starting a building project. Unless good project management tools are defined and used, the likelihood of a successful outcome is threatened. Most often, these tools will include a communications plan, status reporting, issue and risk management, testing scripts, training matrices, scope change control, and numerous other governance items. Project status meetings, including project team status updates, vendor progress, and executive reporting should be regular, deliberate, and actionable. Additionally, make sure all project activities are identified, and you’ve established how they will be monitored and reviewed.
  3. Project execution and controlling: While implementation approaches will vary, each project should include some type of design and configuration, core team training, testing, plan for data conversion, end-user training/acceptance, and go-live phases. During this phase, the tools identified previously will increase your opportunity for a successful outcome. An enterprise technology project can last from six to 18 months, and thus requires significant internal discipline to ensure effective execution and control. We’ve helped clients in recovery efforts during this phase due to some common risks:
    • Business objectives weren’t developed, weren’t reflected in the charter, or have been forgotten and not used to govern the team’s activities.
    • The importance of the process changes needed to achieve the business case were underemphasized.
    • Team members were deeply involved in the minutia of the activities, but overall project management was neglected.
    • Inadequate time was planned by core team members, so progress is either very slow or completely stalled due to a lack of priority.

    Role expectations and responsibilities were not clearly defined for both the vendor and core project team. To avoid any of these risks, it’s vital your project manager take internal ownership of the day-to-day progress of the project, and executive sponsorship is aligned and involved from the start.

  4. Project cutover: Once you’ve completed successful end-to-end testing, data conversion, end-user training, and final documentation, it’s time to complete the cutover to your new solution. In advance of cutover, we can’t stress enough the importance of comprehensive testing. Without solution testing key stakeholders and employees can be drastically impacted by any issues.

Since large enterprise technology projects typically only happen in an organization every 15–20 years, they can be intimidating. However, foregoing the operational improvements and the competitive advantages that come with the use of modern enterprise technology can be even more costly. While investment in an independent third-party advisor may seem expensive, leveraging the experience of a firm that provides day-to-day experience with enterprise technologies is invaluable. Not delivering the business case, going over budgets, missing deadlines, or going-live unsuccessfully can negatively impact your organization and anyone that interacts with it.


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