Preempting ERP/SCM System Failure through Project Assurance

6 best practices for improving the odds of implementation success


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April 25, 2011 — As a supply chain executive, you have likely heard of or experienced horror stories with ERP and supply chain management software implementations that range from daily headaches to loss of business. But the fact is that most organizations do not anticipate project failure. Instead, they plan for success, governed by budget, next-step deliverables, executive expectations and go-live deadlines. Heads-down to the task at hand, the project manager and team have little visibility and less control over potential risks within the project — until it's too late.

Not unlike the evolution of just-in-time manufacturing, we are discovering that there is a better way to plan for and prevent failure. It begins with a blueprint of strategic project assurance at critical points in the implementation project's evolution. It establishes clear understanding of expectations among all people involved — from the executives, to the business and IT management, to the software vendors and end users.

Over the years, countless papers and articles have been written on software implementation project success rates and why projects fail. Interestingly enough, the reasons that projects fail are the same today as they were 10 years ago: lack of top management commitment, unrealistic expectations, poor requirements definition, improper package selection, gaps between software and business requirements, inadequate resources, underestimating time and cost, poor project management, lack of methodology, underestimating impact of change, lack of training and education, and, last but not least, poor communication.

In short, projects will continue to fail due to human factors. This is especially true for supply chain environments, where system implementations may cross many internal and external organizational boundaries. The question is this: How can we improve the odds for implementation success if we continue to approach systems implementation as we have in the past?

The Need for Project Assurance

One way to avoid the system implementation mistakes of the past is to adopt a modern view of project assurance methodology. 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 ERP or supply chain system implementation helps you:

  • Control/reduce project costs;
  • Ensure milestones are met;
  • Minimize surprises;
  • Provide objective analysis; and,
  • Provide peace of mind and trust among executives and project team members.
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