Beware What Lies Beyond the Valley of Despair

If you’ve implemented an ERP system in the last few decades, you have surely seen one of the many representations of the traditional ERP change management curve, with copious advice for avoiding, or reducing the depth of the Valley of Despair. The graph is somewhat misleading, in that it typically ends with a plateau or pinnacle of success, implying that your troubles are over as soon as you go live.

If only that were true.

A more comprehensive graph would look like this:

DESERT OF DIS

Notice the descent into what I will refer to as the Desert of Disillusionment, that awful place where every “productivity improvement” line item in your rosy ROI analysis (the one that you used to justify the project)  is revealed as a mirage.

Why does this happen, and does it have to be this way?  More importantly, what are the warning signs and how should you deal with them?  We will deal with specific topics in future posts, but for now, we invite you to take our short survey on diagnosing enterprise system impact on business productivity.

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Practical Project Management

practicalityIn times like this every PMP needs a healthy dose of a new and improved PMP, that is, project management practicality. As the recession lingers, those of us who drive the success of projects, programs, and any corporate initiative are going to have to find new ways of doing more with less.  Here are seven practical tips for cutting corners without sacrificing project success.

1. Curtail time-consuming interviews for requirements-gathering. There are several easy ways to cut the effort required to gather information from subject matter experts:

  • Group them by functional area (when appropriate) and avoid interviewing single stakeholders.
  • Use structured information gathering templates and require that they take a pass through them and begin filling in the required information before the meeting. The keyword here is structured. I prefer Excel templates with restricted ranges of responses, rigidly enforced with data validation limiting those responses to list.  STructure the information you need into columns, apply data validation, and put explanatory notes as a cell comment in the column headers.

2. Make your meetings more productive.

  • Know your goals. Have an agenda and be ruthless about sticking to it.
  • Limit the attendees to those people with decision-making authority
    and real subject matter expertise. Bigger meetings cost more and waste more time.
  • Appoint a live note-taker. The note-taker should type the notes live during the meeting and send them out before the end of the day. Transcribing from written notes is wasted effort.

3. Restructure your project team. Combine roles and responsibilities, because fewer roles mean fewer handoffs. It’s better to have a smaller team running above 100% utilization than a larger team at or under 100% utilization.

4. Carefully define the scope of your analysis/requirements gathering effort. Don’t waste time documenting standard business processes in excessive detail; concentrate on the areas that have unique and/or critical requirements.

5. Hold the line on customizations. They add cost to the current project, and will complicate upgrade and migration projects down the road.

6. Request a mini-business case for custom reports. Every custom report should have a place in the spec that describes the business action that the report enables, as well as a list of alternative sources for the requested information if the custom report is not available. This will help the project sponsor make an informed decision when approving the custom report request.

7. Make project status more transparent. To reiterate an earlier post on PMOs: A well-defined, user-friendly, and well-maintained project portal site can cut down on the need for lengthy status meetings. Milestone status, next week’s key tasks, and open action items can be posted to the portal site. A weekly meeting can be used for exception-based reporting on lagging milestones and critical issues, allowing the project sponsor and key stakeholders to participate in resolution during the meeting.