Reduce Dynamics projects risk with these 10 simple steps
Despite around 50 years of mankind’s collective experience implementing business IT projects, the failure rate is still astonishingly high – or put another way, if success is measured as ‘hitting or exceeding all the key performance indicators’, full success is hardly ever achieved. Why is this? Is it in the nature of projects in general, technology-led, or not? This seems unlikely – for instance there are many more amazing examples of successful complex construction over the last 5000 years than there are of failure. So is it specific to IT projects, and particularly to CRM and ERP where leading consultancies and research groups have published horrifying statistics from as far back as 2001. Everyone wants to reduce Dynamics projects risk.
But has it got any better over the intervening years? You might (perhaps rightly) suspect that some of the higher claimed percentages seem more an advert for using the consultancy/research group than a real reflection of the state of CRM and ERP projects in general. But the truth is that many CRM and ERP projects still often fail, or overrun, or don’t achieve what they were intended to – even top Dynamics partners have some projects that went wrong. What are the underlying reasons, and what can you do to make sure that your project achieves (or if you work for an Implementation Partner, projects achieve) what you intended?
There are many factors which, when combined effectively, contribute to success, and people can (and do) speak for days about planning, methodology, stakeholders, contingency, communication, and so on. We think it should be simpler – and that the projects themselves should be simpler.
In short, most projects that I and my colleagues have seen over the last 20 years, even in the best Dynamics partners, can have a propensity to try to do too much at once. An ever-expanding scope results in a move away from focussing on the original aims. For every new scope change, end-user Project Managers should be far better prepared to say ‘No’ more often. Or at least to question ‘Why?’ or better still ‘Does this directly improve impact on the agreed business goals of this project?’. As should those that work for implementation partners – for both partner and end-user, a multi-phased successful project is far better business than one big project which takes three years to implement and then fails.
At 365 Talent Portal, we’ve developed a range of simple tools and content that we provide to help our membership base of Dynamics consultants, Partners and End users keep their projects simpler, measure Dynamics projects risk, and take steps to control it. Some key critical success factors of best-in-class implementations include:
Focus on business processes and requirements first
Don’t get side-tracked by technical capabilities or platforms that a particular software system can support. Focus on key business requirements, as these are what enable you to choose the software that fits your specific business needs, and implement it in a way that does not require extensive customization.
Focus on achieving a healthy ROI, including post-implementation performance measurement
Develop a business case to solicit approval from upper management, but also to establish key performance success measures. Ensure you record baselines prior to go live, and targets for tracking performance after go-live. This is the only way to truly realize the benefit potential and success of the project. It’s always shocked me how few case studies claiming success actually give any metrics. The reason? Few projects measure them.
Focus from company executives to reduce Dynamics projects risk
An obvious one, but often still poorly executed. Support from a CIO or IT director alone is not enough. These are business solutions, so need involvement of the business leaders. And involvement means setting aside enough time to get involved effectively.
Develop a realistic project plan and implementation timeframe
Project plans and budgets should include items such as process and workflow definition, quality data migration and customization of training materials to match unique business processes. These areas are often reduced or even removed as part of the price negotiation. That’s a false economy.
Commit strong Dynamics project management and your best Dynamics resources to the project
Make no mistake – the success of the implementation is the responsibility of the end-user company for whom the project is being implemented – NOT any implementation partner. This success must be managed by a team that includes a strong dynamic Project Manager (the key delivery resource) and other ‘A’ team resources across the company. If you don’t have them, hire them in (consider using a Dynamics freelancer or a team of Dynamics freelancers).
Good and open communication
Project communications is key – beginning by explaining the reasons and KPIs for doing the project, and keeping the organisation updated on progress. This will enable different parts of the organisation to assess how they will be impacted by changes in processes, policies, and procedures, and plan effectively.
Ensure adequate organizational change management and training
These systems are about your firm evolving, and so often bring enormous changes to employees. Any system will prove to be ineffective if your staff do not understand what it is for, or how to use it. A focus on training, organizational change management, job design and other employee support measures is critical.
Limit software customization
Good software packages have best practice built in – which can add great value. But not all standardized best practice may suit your situation. However, while it may therefore seem obvious to customize new software to run your business the way it has always been run, these customizations can quickly drive up prices and slow down benefits realization. Always cross-refer possible customizations back to the business benefits you identified in the project planning – if customizations support them cost-effectively, do them; if they don’t, don’t do them. This is a key area where the Project Manager should be saying ‘Why?’ and then ‘maybe ‘No’ more often.
Leverage independent Dynamics expertise
Selecting the right software and implementation initiatives is challenging and requires strong expertise. Most end-user firms undertake these projects rarely, so shouldn’t expect to be expert. It is often less costly in the long-run to bring in external experts (which can be a top Dynamics partner or Dynamics freelancers, or a mixture of both) to ensure that your evaluation and implementation goes smoothly. Selecting the right partner can in itself be a skilled task; we have tools and lists of questions to help you through this process.
Where to find out more
The above is a whistle-stop tour of some key areas in controlling Dynamics projects risk; if you would like to know more, then please join one of our free online seminars for Dynamics consultants, partners and end-users. We will focus on some simple basics, founded on our experience of Dynamics projects since launch over 15 years ago. And we’ll provide some simple-to-use tools you can takeaway afterwards.
Join Louis Geller, who will show you how you can make a real difference to your projects from today onwards. Louis has held CEO, Sales, Delivery, and Alliances Director roles in some of the world’s largest IT organisations including Microsoft and HP. In nearly every role, he found unnecessarily cumbersome systems and over engineered processes, usually implemented at significant cost, that added no value to the customer. None of us want that ever again. So please join our Controlling risk in Dynamics projects webinar to see how to avoid it.
Many thanks to Louis Geller for help in the production of this article.