As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader, who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

We just had a successful implementation of a huge technology upgrade. We held the post-implementation party and started packing up our team room. Then about a week later all hell broke loose. The system is crashing, reports are missing, and everybody is screaming. It’s going to be another month before we can get back to ‘normal’. We need to think fast about what went wrong and if we can avoid it in the future. Any suggestions? 

Most investments in a large-scale system implementation fail to deliver all that was desired at the start of the project. Problems associated with complex system implementations become visible during the post-implementation phase as users learn their way around; testing its limits and setting off aftershocks that can devastate an otherwise successful control environment.

Unfortunately, aftershocks occur just when the project team has been dismantled and the system has been passed over to day-to-day maintenance. No knock against these folks but sometimes the rigorous project methodology used prior to implementation often becomes a thing of the past. This exposes the organization to risk and compounded errors as fixes are installed at a modular level without the benefit of regression and end-to-end testing.

But we don’t have to accept this; there’s a lot that can and should be done to optimize your solution and avoid or reduce post-implementation problems:

  1.   Plan for emergency funding (10% of your total budget)
  2.   Plan for staffing additions and backfill
  3.   Do not discontinue project governance
  4.   Continue to enforce Vendor involvement/management
  5.   Re-emphasize the importance of data standards and collaboration
  6.   Revisit the BPI model
  7.   Appoint a ‘reporting review’ team
  8.   Plan and budget for regular system maintenance
  9.   Plan and budget for continuous training
  10.   Consider using agile methodology for future implementation.
  11. And most importantly, continue to support and focus on change management
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