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IT Strategy - a Stately Home
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Project Management

This is the part of the sub-web covering the Implementation of Applications Software. To go to the overview of this sub-web, please click Overview. To go to the web-site home page, please click Home.


In any implementation of IT systems, it is vital to get the Project Management right. Many of the failures of major IT projects can be, in part, attributed to failures of Project Management. Accordingly, it is essential that the management structure is properly set up, with the appropriate levels of skill, resources, and, essentially, commitment.

(The whole area of Project Management will be part of further expansion of this site, at a later date).

Essential Features

There are a number of features which are essential to a successful implementation. These include:

  • sponsorship. There must be a person, at a high level within the organisation, who is committed to the success of the project. This person is responsible for ensuring that all staff, involved with the project, perform as required, that adequate, suitable, resources are provided to the project and that those problems, which require a higher level of decision than the project manager can provide, are resolved;

  • ownership. The people who are, ultimately, to use the system, must have a sense of 'ownership' of the system. It helps if key users have been involved in the selection process. If, however, the system has been 'imposed' on the users, then they must be brought into the project at an early stage, and their views taken into account. If their views are ignored, then the chances of failure are much increased. If, however, their opinions are sought, their problems discussed and addressed, and the features of the system explained, the chances of success increase significantly;

  • project manager. This is a key position. This individual is involved in virtually all day-to-day decisions, often in conjunction with key users, possibly formed into a user committee. The project manager is the principal point of contact for the supplier, as well as reporting progress to the steering committee and the customer's internal administrative structure, often the 'sponsor' of the project. Accordingly, they need to be well-informed, have adequate authority, and be decisive. If the customer lacks such an individual, consultancies, such as this one, can supply somebody. The software supplier will also have a project manager, whose objective is to ensure that the supplier completes the project and gets paid. Do not try to use this person as the customer's project manager as, in the event of problems, they will have conflicting loyalties. You need somebody who can stand up to the supplier, but develop a good working relationship. With a good project manager, suitable user commitment, and a realistic implementation plan, a successful implementation is more likely;

  • steering committee. This is the main decision-making body. It should comprise:

    • the 'sponsor' of the project;

    • the customer's project manager;

    • the client manager from the software supplier;

    • the software supplier's project manager;

    • other individuals, felt to be appropriate.

Examples of appropriate other individuals include heads of departments affected by the system (e.g. FD, Sales Director, Production Director, Head of Marketing), and other key individuals from the supplier. There have been many occasions when we have supplied an independent chairman for the committee. If you use such an individual, their priority is a successful implementation, and they are required to be fair but firm with both the supplier and the customer.

The purpose of this committee is to provide strategic direction to the project, within which the project manager can work. Accordingly, it should meet regularly - monthly is about the norm - and all decisions should be minuted. At each meeting, progress should be reported and compared with the plan. Any significant deviation should be discussed and, if necessary, the plan may be changed. Similarly, changes in resources and priorities need to be discussed and significant amendments agreed. If these require formal signature by key individuals, this can be accomplished at the same time;

  • user committee. This is composed of representatives of each of the areas affected by the system. The members of the committee should all have a good knowledge of their area, and be able to understand the impact, of any changes to the system, on their area. Members will, typically, be senior members of their department, or young, rising managers. The role of this committee is to be heavily involved with the configuring and / or testing process. They need to agree, with the supplier's representatives, the detailed design of the system and supporting procedures. They also need to agree the content of all acceptance, and user, tests, and ensure that they are properly undertaken and checked. This committee, with the project manager, are responsible for implementing the system, within any constraints laid down by the steering committee, so the selection of the appropriate individuals, who must make adequate time available, is very important. As an example, a recent implementation of a Tier 2 ERP system, in a manufacturing environment, with significant internal procedure changes, had a user committee of 6 working almost full-time for 4 to 6 months but, at the end of that time, they all had a detailed knowledge of the operation of many parts of the business, and are now making a significant contribution across the business;

  • project management software. There is a variety of project management software available and, while it is not essential for the successful running of a project, it is a useful tool, and a convenient way of recording, and displaying, important information. Depending on the size of the project, it may also be appropriate to undertake Critical Path Analysis (aka PERT), which may be included in the package.

  • progress meetings. These are meetings held by the two project managers, with appropriate personnel from each side, such as implementation team leaders from the supplier, and members of the user committee, from the customer. This meeting, which is minuted, records detailed progress and problems. Where the problems can be resolved at this level, they are. If they can't be, they are referred upwards, to the steering committee.

The basic objective of using the software is to support the implementation plan, by holding it, and much of the information on which it is based, on the system, recording progress, and highlighting forthcoming problems and key events.

There is much more which can be discussed on this subject, but, currently, this is only a brief overview;

As an indication of some of the work topics which have to be covered, we have extracted a list of tasks, which have to be undertaken by the customer, from a proposal, and included them as a page of this site (see Tasks). We have also identified which ones are the responsibility of the project manager and included a typical Terms of Reference if an external consultant was to undertake the task.