EPM projects are ambitious undertakings that have a profound impact on the life of your business. So if your EPM consultant isn’t working out — the sooner you know, the better.
Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20.
Whenever a committed relationship fails, you can almost always look back and point to early signs that things weren’t going to work out. That realization is usually followed by regret — regret at all the time, money, and opportunity cost incurred if you had only acted sooner. The reason you didn’t, you tell yourself, is that these early indications were viewed at the time as relatively minor. And so dismissing them was easy. Furthermore, the pain of making a change got steeper and steeper as time passed, and that made you want to push your concerns aside even more — until the situation eventually became intolerable.
Almost by definition, early warning signs must look minor. If they were major, corrective action would happen sooner, so the signs would not be early, they would be right on time. So, what are some early warning signs that an EPM consultant might not be working out? We would suggest five:
Stakeholder ComplaintsWhen it comes to the health of an EPM project, business stakeholders are the canaries in the coalmine. Why so? Because stakeholders are laser focused on business outcomes, and also on the complaints of their own internal constituents and external customers. They have less patience for technical glitches, and are less likely to be swayed by technical explanations of why something doesn’t work as it should — less likely, that is, than project sponsors who “own” the project, are perhaps more technically inclined, and are probably more sympathetic to their consultant partners’ arguments.
Want to make stakeholders happy? Read how an agile EPM approach might just do the trick!
Bait and SwitchThis one is near the top of the list because it is likely to be the very first sign things aren’t as they should be. Bait and switch is when the person actually doing the work on your EPM project is not the wunderkind you believed they would be. Consultants have an obvious incentive to bring in their star players when what’s at stake is the contract (which you haven’t signed yet). They should be equally motivated to bring in the same stars when what’s at stake is the actual success of the project itself. Insist on it!
No Skills TransferThis one is important for two reasons. First, your people should be empowered. They should not feel like they’re about to be crushed by this mammoth piece of technology where they are going to have to call in an expert whenever there’s an issue. The second reason is that skills transfer is a sure sign of continuous collaboration between the consultant’s team and yours. For one thing, skills can’t be transferred if people aren’t talking to each other and, for another; the fact that skills are being transferred is fairly obvious. People are able to do things they couldn’t do before, and can tell you. The reason you want collaboration is that it is the lubricating oil that makes the EPM project engine run smoothly. It eliminates surprises. It spurs creativity and problem solving. And it engenders a positive atmosphere in which to work — which leads to higher output with fewer mistakes.
Strafford prides itself in giving our clients a front-to-back implementation approach that brings end-users in early, often and even after the EPM implementation is complete.
Small SurprisesA surprise results from a misunderstanding, a lack of resources (e.g., time, budget, skills), or a deliberate act of defiance. None of these three reasons, of course, is acceptable. But the real problem is not usually the surprise itself — people are human, after all — it’s a pattern of small surprises. When small things keep happening you don’t expect — a piece of functionality is a little off, a budget number is missed, a milestone is a little late, etc. — it’s time to get concerned. Not only do small things add up to become a big deal, but they also indicate a lack of accountability on the part of the consultant. And that alone is a big deal.
You Can’t Answer Simple QuestionsA quality EPM consultant will make sure project owners understand what’s going on in the project: what deliverables are expected, when they are expected, what their value is and to whom, what alternatives were explored and were rejected, why they were rejected, and so on. Project owners (you) should in turn be able to answer those kinds of questions from stakeholders. If you find yourself getting embarrassed by a lack of answers to what should be straightforward questions, take a moment to assess why.
Assessment, of course, is key. When these early warning signs appear (and when they do it’s usually more than one), it doesn’t mean you automatically make a change. But it also doesn’t mean you dismiss them just because they are minor. Because they almost always are.
What are other early signs? Whether it's an EPM initiative or another technology implementation where you've hired consultants to help, we want to hear from you. Share your experiences using the comments section below.
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