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What makes for a successful implementation?

Successful projects typically have strong project management, and experienced consulting staff aligned with one another

Successful projects typically have strong project management, and experienced consulting staff aligned with one another. When project manager(s) and consulting team members are not in sync, the results are less than desirable. In such cases, there is invariably a breakdown between team members, to where open communication is non-existent. This breakdown impacts trust on all fronts and effects deliverables—which determines whether a project is successful. The best run projects occur when everyone is pulling in the same organized direction. A project should have a detailed “project plan,” (which seems to be a mystery document nowadays) and I’m not sure how anyone can be successful without one. 

As head scratching as this may sound there are reasons why firms opt for no plan. What’s funny is they’ll say they have one somewhere, but for whatever reason it never surfaces. Pieces may be here and there, or there may be a high-level boiler plated strategy document, but not a customized, detailed plan. I believe this happens for a few reasons... First, they may have a fixed estimate arrangement with the client, so they will manage the project as they see fit. If they deliver, then all is good. The problem is, this is rarely the case. These consulting firms will deliver the semblance of what they refer to as milestones, but the problem is the client doesn’t always have the experience required to discern whether it’s true. On top, customers have their regular jobs, which don’t normally entail implementing complex ERP systems.  

The other reason they may not have a detailed plan, is that they don’t have the internal expertise needed to form a plan, nor deliver on it. This is more common with the larger firms, because they cycle resources between ERP vendor solutions. For example, someone could have worked on two Workday projects and then an Oracle project, but not an Infor project. While these other systems have a core sameness about them, they differ tremendously when put into practice. There are important nuances to each system and ideally, you would want consultants who primarily specialize in one ERP solution.

Years ago, we had a project with an exceptionally tight timeline going in. The only way we were able to successfully meet customer expectations was by having a top-notch project manager, and senior consulting staff—all committed and aligned to the common goal. Having a senior project manager as well as senior team allowed us to roll out our “Rapid Implementation Deployment (RAD)” methodology. This enabled us to operate in more of lab-like manner and touch point with the client as designed. This was not a “Trip-based or Visitation” styled endeavor, where the consulting project team is onsite intermittently (not fulltime). Nothing happens rapidly if you don’t have senior staff engaged fulltime to ensure momentum. 

Upon project completion, the entire client project team called our project manager into the cafeteria and gave her not only a standing ovation, but a diamond bracelet as a token of their appreciation. She called me to share her moment. In tears, she bragged about how she could never have done it without the outstanding team of consultants, and a strong client commitment. As usual, she humbly pushed the credit out to her team. After I listened to her verbally embellish every consultant, I stopped her and said, “Those guys would run through walls for you!” She was beloved because she was tough and held everyone to a higher standard. She also had the word power and finesse needed to make her people feel appreciated and recognized. We used to fondly refer to her as, “The benevolent dictator.” She has since retired but will not be forgotten. 

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