Monday, 9 February 2009

Set your phases to stun

So there we were - the blueprint phase was complete and the blueprint document was finished up, the verification phase was more or less complete and we had actually signed off on the document (altho' there were a few items that we queried). We then started on the work with the consultants to go thru in a bit more depth on the various processes.

Now, when we first started the project, the idea was to get the whole company involved and we would all go live at the same time. The director from the consultant firm suggested that it might be better to do it in stages, based upon geographical location. Now I don't actually have a problem with that - it makes sense to reduce workload to a manageable level and if we get problems, in theory at least, it still leaves part of the company able to carry on whilst we sort out the issues.

So therefore we had a "phase 1" for us and a "phase 2" for all other sites thruout the company. But then within a few weeks, the consultants started indicating that they thought we would also do the go live for the sites in this state in more than one go - possibly in 2 more phases. It was pointed out right away that this was not practical - we need the input from one of our other sites in order to get the production rolling at this site. Without their input, we would have to do their data entry manually - and we would need about 12-15 staff extra just to do that.

A few weeks after that, they then started to insist that certain things were not part of the initial plan and would require yet more phases. Several times, we went back to the blueprint document to show that yes, we had actually specified something and that they had actually included it in their document. But this didn't seem to worry them - it seemed that if they didn't know about a particular area or process, the immediate reaction was to suggest that it would be dealt with in a later "phase".

About 7 or 8 months into the project, I raised a question about the output documents - invoices, etc. Their PM sat in with our director and told him that it was not part of phase 1 or phase 2 (and I was in the meeting - boy, it got just a bit heated!). You can imagine the reaction from all of our people. I did actually check afterwards and this guy really did think that we would be able to go live without being able to print off any documentation of any kind. I'd point out that right back at the beginning, we had supplied them with a number of pages of the types and functions of the various documents that we would need - they pretty much covered all of the processes, from sales thru to shipping. I had also provided samples of the actual documents, to give them a good idea of what was needed. But no - has far as he was concerned, documents were part of a "later phase".

So here we are - yes we now have a phase 2 and a phase 3 for our sites in other countries (as I said, this makes sense). But they insist that part of what we needed and what was specified at the very start and in their own paperwork will actually be done later. I actually received an email a while back that indicated they expect to be providing us with consultants for at least the next 2-3 years, and that doesn't include the work for the other sites overseas. One comment indicated that they seem to expect to be working with us for at least 5 years more.

I've received some emails from other people that are, or have been involved in SAP implementations; also 2 Oracle implementations. It does seem to me that there is a pattern developing. Most of those people in IT depts that I have spoken to are clearly well respected, with good experience of various projects, but all of them report similar situations in their project. I may be unlucky, but I have yet to hear from anyone that has not experienced some thing along the lines that we have seen.

But perhaps that's just me?

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