The first 100 days of the BIG project

So you have finally started the project. The money is approved, the products and consultants have been located, the contract has been let and you are already part way through your awareness program. Failure in reliability and asset management programs is often traceable to key decisions that were made either during the sales cycle or within the first days of implementation. So here are some tips that may help you to avoid some of the common pitfalls during this period and ensure your project continues with the same level of corporate enthusiasm that it had when it was pitched at senior management. 1. Make sure that mobilization time frames are agreed and understood Get this right! Whatever you do make sure you get this one right! Empty seats scream non-commitment by the consultant - regardless of the true intention. Misaligned expectations about who will be on site when and what they will be doing will put everyone on the wrong foot right from the beginning! 2. For technology projects - make sure that everyone understands the full capabilities and limitations of the product. I have seen so many EAM projects where the client, led by a consultant organization, charges straight into the process of defining the solution requirements, work processes and data flows. Sometimes the consultants leading this exercise do not even understand the functional capabilities of the system they are designing processes for!! In fact, this line of thinking was in vogue at the turn of the century! And the result? Processes do not align with functions, clients are now determined to implement the processes they have worked so hard to define, the system will need to be changed, the budget gets blown and the business relationship gets off on the wrong foot. The Solution? Take a representative group from within the key users, and train them rigorously in the functions of the product. Make sure they understand what it can and cannot do and then get them to participate in defining the work processes and data flows. The benefits? 9 times out of 10 the system will introduce them to new and different ways of doing things that they were not considering earlier, ,they start to work down the path with a full knowledge of what can be done and what will require a change, and at the same time they get to start developing an appreciation for the technological solution. 3. Formally agree the solution requirements for technology projects. Amazing isn't it? 20 years into the technology revolution and Enterprise level projects still try to carry out implementations without this step. Just for the record there are three steps to defining solutions: (After detailed awareness training)
  1. Define the Solution Requirements - determine what the business needs from the system and document this.
  2. Define the Business Solution Design - determine how the system will be configured and implemented in order to meet with the requirements.
  3. Define the User changes that are going to be needed in order to comply fully with the requirements.
If you start at step two then guess what? That's right, companies get solutions they didnt agree to, didn't sign off on, scope creeps, and either the consultant loses their shirt or the client gets sort changed. 4. DO NOT submit any change requests or contract variations Unwritten rule of large projects: A change order or contract variation that is submitted within (X) days of start up means that either the guys buying the project made some significant mistakes, or it means that the consultants selling the project pulled the wool over somebodies eyes. Whether this is true or not this is the way it will be seen by all. So if their are changes, get an agreement not to submit them within the first (whatever) days, and get an agreement on exactly how these will be managed to make sure everybody gets what they want. (E.g Clients gets solution, consultant retains their profit margin) 5. Never eat alone! Again, no news here! Client companies buy people just as much as they buy products, sometimes more. The project Director is actually the Chief Relationship Officer and it is his job during the initial period to establish a relationship with the clients operational management that will withstand some of the testing times that are to come on the project. If you think that there will not be any testing times then good luck to you, but conventional wisdom suggests there will be. 6. Promote Success! The senior management always want results. regardless of time frames and regardless of what the original expectations were. Check out this article about the SAP implementation at fashion giant Burberry. Give them something to work with. Make sure that the project has some elements to it that can be translated directly into quick wins, things that will get the positive attention of management and ensure they are still on board. 7. Manage risks and changes Again, this is not news but it is so often done so wrong! Get a risk register, get a record of all the changes, create a process for talking about these and dealing with them, and make sure that all risks are dealt with in a fashion that will ensure that the project and its outcomes are not damaged in any way. Failure to do this will leave the client wondering why things are going wrong, why they weren't told that things were going wrong - and general doubts about your ability to set things right. I hope these are of some use, definitely not the only issues to think of during the first one hundred days but a good and successful way to start.