June 06, 2011, 12:52 PM — When organizations undertake software implementations, they do not anticipate failure despite the risks associated with such complex projects. Rather, they plan for success, governed by their budgets, deliverables, executive expectations and go-live deadlines. Yet despite their best efforts at project management, failure rates remain high.
Software implementations fail for variety of reasons, including lack of top management commitment, unrealistic expectations, poor requirements definition, improper package selection, gaps between software and business requirements, inadequate resources, unrealistic budgets and schedules, poor project management, lack of project management methodology, underestimating the impact of change, lack of training and education, and---last but not least---poor communication.
With such a laundry list of failure factors, improving the odds of software implementation success seems impossible, but it can be accomplished. It begins with a blueprint of strategic project assurance at critical points in the implementation. Such a project assurance blueprint establishes a clear understanding of expectations among all people involved--from business and IT management to vendor partners and end users.
The Need for Project Assurance
Project assurance is about making sure that projects are delivered on time, on-budget, with client acceptance. Having project assurance as part of a large-scale software implementation helps you:
* control/reduce project costs
* ensure milestones are met
* minimize surprises
* provide objective analysis
* provide peace of mind and trust among executives and project team members
Project Assurance methodologies are based on the following best practices:
1. Identify the real issues. At the leadership level, you need to develop an executive dialog that allows business and organizational issues to be identified and analyzed with clarity and without emotion. Continue this dialog throughout the implementation process. Remove organizational barriers both within the organization and with third-party vendors. All parties should be aligned with the common goal of project success.
2. Set realistic time frames. Don't rely on the existing schedule. Many organizations will set overly optimistic go-live dates despite the realities and limitations of the actual project. For example, the design phase extends, but the time line doesn't. You must monitor project progress throughout the implementation and start discussions regarding key project dates early in the project's lifecycle to avoid downstream impacts.