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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Anatomy Of A Failed Enterprise Implementation

Fellow enterprise irregular Michael Krigsman has a great writeup on a failed ERP implementation and how it critically affected business performance. Obviously tremendous efforts have gone behind publishing the note. While, I do not know enough about this particular seemingly bothched implementation, Michael's findngs are very insightful. While he highlights the responsibilities of both the vendor and customer in making ERP initiative successful, I want to highlight the finding,

"The ERP problems were managerial, not technical, in nature. The list of ERP and data problems cited in the filings suggest poor project management, rather than technical issues, were at the root of the difficulties. Since the division of labor between customer & vendor IBM is not made clear in the filings, it's impossible to discern where responsibility lies".

In my view, process view, so critical rarely gets constant attention during the implementation cycle and change management - we call it the soft track and is often the hardest to acheive. These make a huge difference. Amongst various other things, the key success factors for any enterprisewide implementation include :

1. A rigorous focus on business processes and enough efforts to get the requirements first. Often, Platform centric capabilities seem to restrict adoption of an enteprise system - that's where the process view helps amongst other things.

2. Business to have reasonable expectations on implementing enterprise systems. Get to the facts in terms of lifecycle costs and expected benefits. Never rush into signing a deal unless both the vendor and customer are in a state of full readiness. Go the whole hog in assessments of investments, efforts and timeliness of these. Get sensitised to the fact that any short circuiting of these can have consequences - marginal to drastic. Extend this to cover all the phases of the engagement and that incudes post implementation phase.

3. Management support in a timely basis, project management, resource co-ordinations and quick decisions are non-negotiables in large implementations and strong change management processes put in place can help some of these bind together in mostly unknown ways. Keep and eye-on-the ball and never allow it to be dropped during the course of the implementation.

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