Thursday, 9 July 2009

And it's all gone quiet

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks – well, that’s mainly because not a lot has been happening. So I thought that I would go back in time a bit, and cover some of the main issues from the early days in a bit more detail.

We had a launch meeting over 2 years ago now (unbelievable how the time has flown) and it had been agreed that at that meeting, the consultants would discuss the various steps of the project, and it was expected that we would come away with a clear idea of what had to be done, who was to do what jobs and have a timetable that we would all work to. Well, that WAS the plan.

I still have my notes from that meeting – one of my first points was that the agenda that they put up on the screen was not the one agreed with the project manager. In fact, it only had 4 bullet points on it – nothing else at all. When you consider that this was for a meeting that was expected to last all day, I felt that it was a bit light on detail.

I also made a couple of other comments after about 30 and 45 minutes – “when is he going to get down to it?” You see, the meeting was being managed by the director from the consultants, and he was doing most of the talking. That first hour, he did a LOT of talking – but at the end, I had no notes as he had not covered a single item that was actually relevant to the project plan. I could see that a couple of our senior managers were getting restless and the CEO left twice to take phone calls.

We broke for coffee at 11:10 – my real notes by that time were on 5 lines although I had some real nice drawings, none of which had anything to do with the project. During the break, our CEO and the consultants’ director got together and I’m told the CEO told him to move the pace up a bit. But it has to be said that by lunch, we still hadn’t really any better idea of what the project plan was. My favorite part was when the guy turned to the CEO and suggested that we ought to have a few bottles of champagne to get the project off to a good start – of course I had to speak up and suggest that perhaps champagne might be more appropriate once the software was actually running. Funny that he and I have never got on since.

After lunch, we were back to this guy talking on and on without actually making any real positive comments that would have been of any value. Later, just before the afternoon coffee break, he allowed their project manager to say a few words. This guy did actually discuss the timetable – but took no more than 20 minutes. Essentially, he stated that there were to be 6 key milestones (there were more, but he only referred to the 6) and he gave the dates for those, one of which was the meeting we were at (10 days late already) and the last one was for the go-live date.

By the end of the day, all we really had was a very basic timetable showing the start and finish with the “blueprint” phase, acceptance of this, the data cleansing, data loading and cutover to the live system. The idea of data cleansing had been briefly covered, but in very limited detail. I had suggested that we should start this as soon as possible as I knew we had a lot to do – this was brushed aside and in fact it didn’t start for a further 4 months. I should highlight that we are now some 18 months on and today it was found that one particular set of data still hasn’t been corrected and won’t load in its current state even though it has been sent back to the relevant department 5 times.

It was a further 2 months before most of the project team even really began to know what was expected of them; none of their responsibilities had been discussed and nothing was down in writing. I know that I can be a bit anal, but for me this so important. People have to know and understand what is expected of them – most won’t make notes, so I feel that writing it down so that they can refer to it is a must.

If I were to ever be involved in something like this again, I know that my priority would be to make sure that the launch meeting set the tempo for the project – that within 30 minutes, everyone would know exactly what was expected of them as individuals and of the team as a whole. We would have clear definition of responsibilities written down, with due dates and standards expected.

I think it a shame that the experience that I have gained from this project will never be used to make another project more effective – that is partly why I’ve been writing this blog, as I hope that other people might come across it and find it of value. The skills that I have gained have come at a high price in terms of workload and frustration and it should be possible to help other people avoid this. Certainly from what I have seen, the consultants have learnt little from it and are most likely to repeat the same errors, over and again.

Oh well, back to the grindstone.


  1. Great blog. I would like to interview you for my blog. Contact me if you are interested.

  2. You're objective to make this blog valuable is reached. Thanks again, it's always a pleasure to read you.

    You know these days I'm reading a lot about the Apollo and other NASA space programs. I'm 40 and I think it is a little bit generational to be so frenetically hooked on this subject. Anyway, while reading I can't help myself comparing how they used to drive their project compared to how we are driving our IT things. Topics and contexts are different for sure but when you realize how much they did in such a short time, it's simply amazing.

    Hope you're fine and you'll take a few holidays.

  3. I read about your blog earlier this afternoon (, and have now read it from the beginning. What a long, discouraging trip it seems. It makes me thankful our project was mostly smoother, although not without its own problems. The original implementation project started over eight years ago, so maybe time has erased some of the problems from my memory.

    We completed an upgrade from R/3 4.6C to ERP 6.0 last year, under time and under budget we're proud to say. But, we were are own project managers, and only hired consultants to augment our staff. I realize that's not very helpful in your situation, but hopefully something you can use in the future.

    Anyway, this is a great blog, and I hope you see it through to the end. I've made a few comments to earlier posts (authorizations and go-live).

    I hope everyone involved takes care of the real priorities in life, good health and family. Try to get away from the grindstone, and spend more time on the beach.

    Best regards!
    (showing I've been drinking the SAP kool-aid too long!)

  4. Guys,

    What can I say - I've just read the comments you've posted and I had to go and take a short break. I can't thank you enough for the kind words.

    To Andy, I've sent you an email - you can reply to that and I'll get back to you. It may take a day or two as I'll be travelling this week.

    Dev, good as always to hear from you. I too remember the Apollo program - I sat and watched with my family. I made a point in a presentation to staff a while back that the least powerful machine we use has more computing process than all of the equipment that put Neil and Buzz on the moon.

    To JD, I've gone back over to see your comments - much appreciated. I did actually make a comment to SAP in an email; just basic points in respionse to some question by them, had we gone live, did we experience any issues etc. It was passed to a manager is SAP who then took it up with the consultants who got really pissed about it.

    I'm also really greatful to Dan Howland for the points he made on his page

    Best regards to you all.

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