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PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Project Management is No Popularity Contest


Recent Gauteng Business News

Observing the project decision-makers who select an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is something of a study of the human condition says Johani Marais, country manager, HansaWorld. From the highs of imagined benefits and anticipated advantages, to the lows of failed expectations and ballooning costs, all the emotions of life can play out. That’s because a great deal of ERP projects aren’t delivered on time, on deadline and within budget. Ensuring that yours is requires stringent project management which starts with a healthy dose of realism and a good project manager who doesn’t expect to be the most popular person in the office.

ERP projects are by their very definition complex and very demanding on all who participate in them. The benefits of a good ERP solution are abundantly clear, but getting to those benefits is rarely a simple or pleasant journey. At the start of such initiatives, the project manager has to make certain allowances where especially budgets and time are concerned – and then stick to them.

These projects tend to be lengthy; even 6 or 8 months is a long time. Anticipate that people will get sick, the unexpected will crop up and the addition of new features or modules which were never part of the initial plan may well become necessary some way into the project.

Make Way for Practical Realities in Project Management

These are practical realities which crop up time and time again in enterprise projects; acknowledging them at the start means being in a position to more accurately plan execution and manage expectations.

Once the configuration and implementation of the software is underway, attention quickly turns to the quality of the project data. Despite the fact that ‘Garbage in garbage out’ is a widely accepted truth in the ICT industry, data is a constant problem. Not only are there routinely issues with duplicates and inconsistent formatting, but in many instances the data just isn’t provided in good time.

What’s more many business owners don’t want to spend on two critical activities which are perceived to be ‘low-value’: testing and change management.

Testing depends on using the data sets which will be processed in the production system. Unless this is done, and done thoroughly, there really is no way of knowing for sure how the project system will perform at go-live. However, it is a routinely neglected discipline which many managers see as a costly inconvenience. It’s not. It is a vital step.

Factors Underpinning Project Management

Similarly, change management is crucial. If the users reject the system, it simply cannot perform.

All these factors are necessities which underpin project delivery. It falls to the project manager to take a firm hand in ensuring that they are done and done properly if the advantages of the new system are to become a reality.

As a result, good project managers tend to be seen as the cause of the ‘growing pains’ and apparently unreasonable demands associated with a well-executed ERP project. They have to be resolute; they have to make sure that everyone sticks to deadlines and milestones. They have to devise and implement change management strategies; they have to get the data and make sure it is tested.

In short, in stringently executing the necessary steps which go from project initiation to project delivery, the project manager is likely to get on a lot of nerves. Certainly, a thick skin is required, as is a good deal of firm diplomacy. But the project manager must accept that their gambit is not to win friends. It is to deliver successful ERP projects.

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