Another project failure...yaaawn or should we?

The latest ERP or IT implementation failure has hit the news. This one is from the US and cost the company an estimated US$440M!

Apart from the attraction of a disaster story then why should this really be of any relevance to anyone in the industry?

1. Firstly because many of the risks that cause these are not understood or appreciated and so are never managed. And even if the project team recognises them, they may not get support from their management or executive team to proactively deal with them.

2. Secondly, even when some of these risks are recognised as being a risk, there is a view that they can be dealt with when they occur. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is impossible. In this case, the millions were lost within a minute as trading systems malfunctioned. In the case of the Queensland Health Payroll, once the system went live there was no path to turn back and no easy way forward, with more pain necessary before recovery could occur.  Knowing which risks can be managed post impact and which must be avoided is crucial.

3. And thirdly, and sadly, the expectations of what is normal in implementing IT is impacted by these and other less catastrophic outcomes. Standards drop and mediocrity becomes the new normal for IT implementations.  That could be the case in your organisation.  The accepted way of implementing change in some organisations is to struggle and accept that there will be delays and disruptions.  This creates a good case for avoiding change next time, which cannot be good for business long term.

Each of these failure scenarios are avoidable and unnecessary. And in many cases at minimal to no additional cost. The challenge for organisations like us at Information Professionals is getting organisations like yours (our clients and prospective clients) to accept that a better way is possible, in a world where the problem is not seen or accepted until it is too late.

So in that sense, these horror stories can help. But they can also not help. If they make us look like scare mongers, perhaps ambulance chasers, then they are not healthy for anyone including us.

But the issue is real, and it can be better managed, and we do help our clients do so.


Mark Nicholls.
Managing Director, Information Professionals. 
Mark is one of Australia’s most trusted IT & Change Management advisors. He also has other entrepreneurial business interests that he operates through MaidenVoyages.


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