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Changing Systems is not an IT Project!!!

In the last few months, I met potential clients who have plans to replace their existing IT Systems. Based on our discussions, I have gathered a few common things that worry me and am thus compelled to share these for the benefit of others.

Our potential clients feel that changing to a new system is not easy and would often fail to achieve the objectives. Out of curiosity, I would always inquire about their thoughts on what the reasons could be.

In general, they blame the systems for being in compatible with the business (inflexible system). Some also expressed concerns regarding the lack of industry experience of the consultants/implementers.

For every “failed project” or “project with many challenges”, there is one similarity observed: these projects are managed by an IT Manager or an EDP Manager.

What is wrong with that? Naturally, it sounds like a good and logical decision to have an IT project managed by an IT specialist. It turns out, however, that this has been one of the reasons why companies fail in adapting to new systems.

I refer to my earlier article published in Retail Indonesia magazine in December 2014 titled “Tantangan dalam Implementasi Sistem ERP” (“Challenges in Implementing ERP Systems). There are three important factors I call 3P :

  • Product to be implemented
  • Process to be applied in to match the new systems, and lastly
  • People, the users that will use the systems in their day-to-day operations must know the systems and process well.

One of the complexity in implementing a new IT System, particularly an ERP System, is that it encompasses various departments within a company, hence we need a project manager who not only knows the IT and business but who also possesses the authority to lead various departments to achieve the common goal.

Below are some implications of project managed by IT personnel:

  • Project Ownership. Users will see the project as an IT project even though the system is meant for the whole company. With this mind set, users’ involvement tend to be are limited and there is minimal sense of ownership of the project.
  • During the project duration, if the project manager is an IT specialist, process changes tend to be more difficult to be agreed upon and executed. In general, IT specialists have limited business process knowledge as well as lacking the authority to make critical decisions, especially when it involves other departments
  • Resource Constraints: Operation Vs Project. Project activities that involve users such as process discussion, training and testing have bigger risks of delay due to resource allocation conflict. It’s typical to have a tug-of-war for resources between project and operation during implementation.

Hence, an ideal project manager should be someone who possesses a high enough position and authority. He or she should represent the company, not a particular department, as a successful project needs the support of the whole organisation.

Hope this helps.

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