Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mea culpa

So far I've been pretty harsh about the consultants - however, I am prepared to say that we didn't get everything right first time.

When the project started, I and a couple of colleagues made a number of suggestions about the best way to proceed. The consultants disagreed with us, and suggested that as they had done this many times, it would be better to follow their lead. That was a definite mistake as it took the ownership away from us - we are definitely dancing to their tune.

I also wanted to start work on the data migration a lot earlier, and there is no question that this would have been much better for us as the process took far longer than the consultants thought it would - about 4 times longer in fact. In addition, the work was supposed to be done by the various team leaders - the assumption was made that they understood what was required but after a month or so, it was clear that many of them didn't. This lead to several delays as we had to go back over various areas more than once. It didn't help that some of the consultants gave slightly misleading information - but our people should have been able to pick that up a lot quicker.

Another issue was to do with the personnel - our guys (and girls) are really quite well motivated, but in some areas, they don't perhaps understand the internal processes as well as they should. I suggested that we should involve a few more staff, but that idea was rejected. It's now become obvious that we need those other people involved - and if that had started a while back, it would certainly have helped us identify some of the more serious issues a lot sooner.

In particular, one specific process area was assigned to one person - it's a major project area and I felt that altho' the guy concerned knows what he is doing, it's gotten just too much for him on his own. That has now become painfully obvious - so we have a number of other people that are being tasked to assist him, but it would definitely have been better if this help had been available much sooner.

From my point of view, the worst thing has been that many of us are effectively doing two jobs - our normal daily work and the implementation project. It becomes very difficult to balance the two areas and the pressure is high for everyone. Several of us are in desperate need of a break - I've had no vacation now for 2 years, other than a couple of days at a time and yes, I know that it's beginning to show as I find myself getting uptight over silly things. One of the other managers came in today; he's just had the results of a medical test and his cholesterol level is way up, an increase of over 80% - his physician told him he has to take immediate action to bring it down.

Each area of the business was responsible for their own data and training preparation - however, 2 areas are really behind everyone else. The finance staff are really struggling to get to grips with some of the new methods, and the project system still doesn't work sufficiently to be able to carry out any real testing. Partly due to lack of resources, partly due to motivation - the training was also inadequate. But they didn't do anything about it, and they didn't highlight the problems soon enough.

That leads me on to the worst aspect. Each area has carried out it's own individual tests, with varying results. Once we started end to end testing, everything started to fall on it's ass. I think in the last 2 months, we actually only had 2 end to end tests that went thru OK, and even those only did so because part of the work was fudged (manually forcing thru something that was supposed to happen automatically). We have more planned, but there is the unspoken suggestion that perhaps we don't need to do all the testing. From everything that I have been told, this is a common error; testing is so important and to miss it out is courting disaster.

Just to make matters worse, we started the end user training 7-8 months ago. Many of the staff that were involved in this have forgotten what they learned - we will have to do it all over again. I've suggested that we tie the two together and get the staff involved in the end to end testing and do the additional training at the same time. To my surprise, this was accepted and it starts next week - I think some of the managers are in for a shock when they see how little the staff remember. There does seem to be a bit of an attitude that they know what they are doing so everyone else does - clearly, that's not the case.

Oh well - onward and upward.

1 comment:

  1. ERP migrations look like ever lasting projects. It's the same in our company. This quote from your post identifies an aggravating factor : "From my point of view, the worst thing has been that many of us are effectively doing two jobs - our normal daily work and the implementation project." At the end you spend hell of time inventing contingency plans that solve problems due to the delayed initial plan (for example, the training of users that you mention).

    You're right about testing. Testing is critical and can't be avoided. You can't predict in advance what will happen until you have played with the tool long enough, especially for the interactions of all pieces (prices, products, customers, etc). Testing allows you to identify these weird features that no one was expecting or those which implementation is considered obvious in a certain way and no one thinks they could be implemented differently.

    I find your blog interesting and inspirative because you have an analytical approach. Keep on with these good entries !