Best Practice: System Integration Project Nirvana

BY IN Dojo On 04-08-2014

These 10 key steps must be understood, processed and consciously absorbed by the project team. This is especially true for the project manager who must courageously lead the team down this path. Do these steps for all your projects and you will be on your way to project enlightenment.

#1 “Always be able to answer the question: Why are we doing this project?”

Without a purpose, there shall be no project. It is extremely important everyone associated with the project unanimously understands the project objectives, benefits, cost, scope, risks and downside in a way they can comprehend and communicate to others. One of my favorite ways to articulate this message is reflected in the Project Benefits Statement.

#2 “Get It Done Quickly”

You must show significant progress and produce tangible results very fast. The project cadence impacts the momentum / motivation of the project team. More importantly, it is extremely important to your executive sponsors they see something quick, as their reputation is on the line with their peers and they need a fast ROI for all the money they have authorized.

#3 “You must have a Tiger (Executive Sponsor)”

A company executive must sponsor the project and be willing to put his or her name on it. It is ususally the “Tiger” organization that benefits from the results of this project (hopefully several others) as they have the most to gain or lose in the end. Your Tiger is your ally and the best way to get the support, resources and finances required for Project Nirvana.

#4 “The Tiger must absolutely agree with the answer to Step #1”

Most of the time, the Tiger is the one who originally answered this question and should understand more than anyone the importance of the initiative.

#5 “Make sure it works when you turn it on”

The best way to lose your credibility and your job is to cutover a defective system. A comprehensive Testing Strategy focused on total system quality is a must. What is even more important is the successful execution of multiple comprehensive integration testing cycles. The more complex the implementation, (# of interfaces, # of data conversions, # of users. # of customers, # of processes) the more testing is required.

#6 “Make sure the people who have to use the system are trained before they have to use it”

This seems like such a logical and straight forward statement, I should not even have to include it, but… you would be surprised how many users receive inadequate or no training before they are asked to adopt a new way for them to do their daily job. Keep the training simple and to the point, use a “day in the life scenario” with a complete focus on the user “What is the minimum I need to know to do my job?”.

#7 “Change your business process”

A successful system implementation is always a balance of People / Process / Technology. Sometimes it is more of one that the other two, but there needs to be balance. Do not force your users into a one-size fits all package application system without taking into account their true business needs, but at the same time make sure they are willing and can make reasonable business process changes. Help keep them be competitive within their industries using both best practices and systems.

#8 “Use experts and make sure you have enough of them”

Realize the fact your system integration project will probably fail without the expertise and assistance of professional consultants. Get consultants who really know the functionality of the application system and have lots of product and domain knowledge. These folks may be expensive compared to your regular employees but the right ones have what you need to ensure your project is successful.

#9 “Knowledgeable, experienced and influential people must work on the project”

Whether they are hired consultants or employees of your company, they need these attributes. Get the best and brightest on your project. Knowing they all won’t be in that category, make sure you also get the ones with the ‘Can-Do” attitudes and a strong desire to work as a team.

#10 “Use the 80—20 Rule”

Focus on the 20% that will deliver 80% of the benefits, not the other way around. Prioritize and compromise with the users to deliver fast, high quality results and then scale up with more users and application functions and features after a solid foundation has been put in place.

To summarize, the path to System Integration Nirvana requires you to know why you are doing this project, produce quality results quickly, have an active executive sponsor, train the users well, especially when they must change the way they do things today, make sure you get the expert help you need with external consultants and internal employees and finally, focus on the big picture results.


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