ERP and other Industrial / Manufacturing Software Implementation projects can be (and usually are) complicated endeavors with many facets that need to be managed and executed effectively. The simple definition of a “Project” is that it is a temporary activity with a Start date and a Completion date and milestone dates in between. The purpose is to create a unique result (i.e. implementing a new ERP system). If you’ve been involved with a project that seems to keep on going, maybe even well past the original “Completion Date”, then chances are it is being poorly managed, even though it may seem successful and some objectives have been achieved.
Key Factors for Project Success:
This “open-ended”, never-ending project syndrome is most likely due to several (missing) factors. These factors should have been set in the earliest stages of project definition and typically include:
Project Objectives are usually set by the Management team. It defines the purpose of the project; what are the benefits to the company, department, or individual in qualitative and/or quantitative terms. Without a clear set of project objectives and vision from the Management team, success can be elusive because we don’t know if the business objectives were met.
Project Scope defines what will be done within the boundaries of the project. For instance, software will be installed and configured, training will be provided, data conversion and verification will be executed, etc. Without a clear project scope definition, project activity can continue at the whim of the team as they may arbitrarily define what is needed to be done. This can cause direct, negative impact to both project schedule and budget.
Project Deliverables are specific results of planned project tasks. Such things as documentation, training, installation services, and consulting are all project deliverables. It is very important to define, track, and acknowledge / accept project deliverables throughout the duration of the project. Completing and accepting project deliverables is key to being able to formally close the project.
The Project Implementation plan defines the approach to executing the project. It includes project phases and subsequent tasks that need to be scheduled and performed to provide project deliverables and meet objectives. Without a well-defined set of sequenced and contingent project activity in the form of phases and tasks (sometimes referred to as a Work Breakdown Structure / WBS) it is difficult to schedule the project, set expectations, manage resources, and report on project status.
Defining Project Team Roles and Responsibilities is important to make sure project team members know and can prepare for their specific involvement in the project. Forming a good project team with the appropriate knowledge, skill sets, and availability is critical to project success.
A Project Schedule must be established that defines start and end dates for all project phases and tasks. The schedule drives project activity. If a project schedule is not managed / maintained, task completion tends to float and subsequent tasks cannot be started and in turn causes further schedule delays going forward. The key is to define an aggressive and realistic (achievable) schedule. If a schedule is too aggressive, it will likely fail before the project starts. The project team becomes discouraged because they know completion dates are not realistic. The project loses buy-in right up front. If a project schedule is too conservative (loose), project team member engagement and participation is sporadic and inefficient because they tend to gravitate to other more pressing work.
Lastly, the Project Budget must be accurate and commensurate with the project scope (work to be done). An underfunded or a poorly managed budget is one of the quickest way to project failure. Even though most budgets are “estimated” and may be more or less than needed, most customers expect the budget to be maintained and don’t expect to need additional funding (unless out of scope tasks are added to project activity).
As a whole, the above factors set a clear project path with start and end dates, what is to be achieved, how, when, and why, the resulting deliverables, who is responsible for which tasks, and the cost restrictions. Managing and controlling these project factors / key aspects is what results in a successful, completed project. Failing to define and hold to any of the above project factors can lead to the infamous, never-ending project. Why? Because we don’t know if we arrived there yet if we don’t know what there is….
Project Success and Achievement
So, what is Project Success? Simply stated, a successful project meets all objectives / deliverables within the stated schedule and budget. I think most people would agree with this definition of project success, but also agree that achieving project success and closure can be problematic.
Here are some straight-forward suggestions / guidelines to help:
In addition to defining and managing the key project factors mentioned above, perform good project management, execution, and control practices.
- With relatively complex projects, it typically helps to segregate project activity into Phases. For instance, Phase I may be project initiation and planning, Phase II may be training / process review and definition, Phase III is Design, Phase IV is implementation, test, and approval, and Phase V is Project Acceptance / Closure. Project Phases can vary depending on the project goals and scope, but the final project Phase should always include Project Closure. Be sure the deliverables from each Phase are clearly defined.
- Establish gating / approval procedures at the conclusion of each Phase. A Phase completion approval procedure should include making sure all tasks, expected deliverables, and associated cost (earned value) are completed and accepted. Do not move on to the next Phase until the prior Phase is formally approved.
- Conduct frequent Project Status meetings with the project team and management (stakeholders). Review project status (planned activities vs. accomplishments), issues / risks that might impact the project, schedule updates, and budget. Make sure to have an action plan to address / resolve anything that is or may be deterring the project from a successful completion.
- Project Closure / Acceptance. This is the critical (final) phase of the project. However, sometimes due to the nature of the project, resource commitments, and other factors, many times formal Project Closure tasks are not performed. When a project is not closed, it can have a tendency to live on consuming more time, budget, and resources. Formal project closure should result in the following:
- Confirmation / acceptance of all deliverables.
- Completion of all related project information / documentation and making it available to project stakeholders.
- Agreement that Project Objectives have been achieved. Based on the related business or process cycle, it may take several months to confirm quantitative objectives.
- Closure and resolution to open issues.
- Closing access to project reporting mechanisms.
- Clear definition of support avenues for any issues that might arise after project closure.
- As needed, define and schedule any post-project activity. This should be separate from the original project scope / activity.
Godlan adheres to industry leading project management practices and uses a well-proven implementation methodology. Your chances for project success are greatly improved by utilizing Godlan’s Professional Services. To learn more visit www.Godlan.com