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Thursday, 15 October 2009 09:00

How to make a software roll-out fail, part 7

Rolling out a major project (ERP for instance) requires that a lot of complex factors are brought together harmoniously.  However, such a project can be brought down by more mundane choices; here's my next insight.

I have written in the past about the "New Era" project which supposedly went live over a week ago.  Unfortunately, everyone is still frantically scrambling to bring it all together...

The project has been over five years in development and it is becoming very clear that the project team has missed one fundamental, crucial part of any project delivery (aside from the all-too-obvious functionality gaps).

All around me, I hear people trying to come to grips with the new system; cursing all the while that everything is different; that the workflow doesn't make sense; that previous data has been mis-converted; that existing well-established business rules no longer apply; that large chunks of it plain don't work.

Now, putting aside the bugs and other errors in the system, the project team has clearly violated Rule 1 of "Change Management 101."  Get buy-in from the users.

There has been no program to capture the "hearts and minds" of the people most affected by the changes.  If time and resources had been spent on explaining "what's in it for them," the front-line staff would have approached the new system with much less anger and scepticism. 

Note that I said "hearts AND minds." 

Those are two very different targets for the education campaign.  It is a pity that neither has been addressed to any significant degree.

What should the campaigns be saying?  For 'Minds," people want to know how it will work, what's different and why it's different.

For 'Hearts,' they want to be convinced viscerally that it is a good thing - they need to become flag-waving supporters of the change.

None of this is true - if there WAS an education campaign, it has failed miserably.

Unfortunately, you can rest assured that senior management are STILL being assured that the roll-out is progressing smoothly.  However, to counter this, plans are afoot to go to “Plan B;” re-start the old systems to get some product flowing to increasingly irate (nay, angry) customers.

We are definitely living in interesting times!

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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