Successful IT projects need more than IT skills

Record-setting ERP projects show that technology is just one part of successful implementation

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Successful IT projects need more than IT skills (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 18, 2014

To kick off the new year, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time speaking to end users about deployments, with two record-setting ERP implementations standing out, both for the scale of what they have achieved, and also for the degree of sophistication that was involved in each.

In both instances, the organisations had executed complex ERP projects in a short time scale. Despite the fact that both organisations, namely RAK Ceramics, which you can read about on page 40, and Lamprell, which will feature in our March issue, took different approaches to skills and scope, I was struck by some of the things that they had in common, and the emphasis that each placed on these factors as being vital to the successful completion of the project.

Both teams ensured that they had buy-in and sponsorship from the highest levels of the company management, right from the very start of the project. The championing of the project was not just confined to a single individual either, but spread across different management functions and departments within the company. Outside of the IT department , C-Level executives are recognising the value of big projects like ERP, and the value that they can bring to the organisation, and are being involved with steering the project in the right direction from the off.

And another common aspect of both projects was the commitment to communication as part of the change management process. Again, from the beginning of the project, time and effort was put in to inform the user base of what was going on, and to create some excitement and enthusiasm around the project. The executive sponsors were involved again, to demonstrate the importance of the project to the organisation. Coupled with indepth training, the projects engaged across the board with the users. Even executives and staff who would not be directly involved with using the finished implementation were included in training and briefings, to ensure an enterprise-wide view was taken of the project.

The investment of time and resources into these aspects of project management, and sponsorship reflect not just an increased maturity in the market, but also the realisation that there are certain elements outside of the traditional technical skills sets or hardware requirements, that are equally essential to successful deployments. Companies that want to get projects done properly, need to acknowledge these factors and give them adequate attention.

Of course, in both of the instances above, the organisations involved were willing and able to invest in the necessary resources, but this might not always be the case. Not every organisation has a CEO who can see the bigger picture when it comes to IT, and budgets might not always stretch to expensive consultants to validate projects and processes. Global best practice, or vendor best practice, might dictate an intensive and expensive methodology, but is that realistic for every project? Can companies can get away with skimping on the wider aspects of project management and change management? Let me know what you think.

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