There is something about large projects that you’ll never find, hence never learn, in smaller projects. The complexity, both technical and in terms of people dynamics, creates an all new set of challenges.
I read the article I Survived an ERP Implementation – Top 10 Gems of Advice I Learned the Hard Way at the beginning of the week. I was interested by the title since although I often work in companies where the ERP occupies a central place (don’t they always?), I’ve never been part of the implementation of an ERP.
As I read the article though I found much similarities between what the author was saying about the dynamics of an ERP implementation and large projects I’ve been on.
I therefore recommend it even if you don’t plan implementing an ERP anytime soon ;)
For instance, here are comments I would throw on the top of my head for some of her gems around ERP that apply to large projects in general:
10. Don’t be fooled by the system sales team. If they tell you “of course our system can do that” or “absolutely, with small modifications”, have your technical experts talk to their technical experts. Go in with eyes wide open.
Overselling a product isn’t a monopoly of the ERP sub industry, unfortunately!
Any complex product can easily be oversold by sampling the feature sheet of said product and matching it with a project’s requirement. The devil often is in the detail and on a large project, you can’t dive into all little details straight from the beginning.
If you are the technical expert or the one assigned to evaluate a product here are a couple of tips:
- Ask questions, lots of questions
- You won’t be able to cover everything so try to do horizontal and vertical sweeps: walkthrough an entire business process, look at an entire slice of data, look at an end-to-end identity journey, etc.
9. Whatever time period (and budget) you think will be required to go-live, you are most likely underestimating it. It’s tough enough to be immersed in an implementation, but continually pushing back the go-live date is deflating to the entire organization.
Large projects take more time than small projects, right? ;) Well, no, they take even longer!
Large projects have explicit steps that are implicit or much smaller scale on smaller projects: data migration, change management, business process optimization, user experience, etc. . Each take a life of its own and shouldn’t be underestimated.
8. There is no possible way you can over-communicate. Regardless of forum, of timeliness, of method, there is no such thing as too much.
Large projects have more people involved and last longer, hence give time for staff to churn. Your message will get distorted through layers of team, time, etc. . So repeating your message ensure that pieces of it will reach their destination.
6. Data is sexy. Learn to love it; treat it with respect and care. It’s the backbone of a successful implementation. You don’t want to to experience go-live with a broken back.
5. A lack of change management will bite you in the butt. Post go-live, the speed at which you get through the hangover period will be heavily dependent on how well you managed change throughout the project.
You think the finish line is the delivery of the project? No, it’s the user acceptance of a new product, the large user base. If they reject it, whatever you have done won’t matter.
1. ERP implementations are equal parts politics and emotions. Ignore the effect of either of these at your own peril.
Expectations, perceptions, unspoken assumptions… ghosts that can harm you as much as the real thing. Do not ignore them!