EPM project failure hurts organizations two ways: first, by disrupting day-to-day business, and, second, by not delivering EPM’s promised benefits. Here’s how to avoid both risks.
There are many good reasons to implement enterprise project management (EPM). EPM lets you cherry pick the best investments, select the prime selling opportunities, reduce costs, and decrease time to market. But the downside of an unsuccessful EPM project is that it wastes money, time, and human resources — and won’t provide the hoped-for business insight.
The good news is that there are just a few key reasons why your EPM project may fail. Most organizations, if they are on top of the project, can eliminate implementation issues with a little due diligence:
- Lack of Strategic Vision
Not knowing why you are doing a project in the first place is likely the biggest reason for any project failure, EPM or otherwise. Understanding the difference between EPM solutions and other finance-related software is fundamental to success. EPM isn’t about doing the numbers better or faster (although that’s certainly a benefit). It’s about improving company performance. And if that’s not what you’re focusing on, then don’t start the project.
- Lack of Functional Skills
EPM is robust software — so project teams certainly need technical skills. But what is too often under-appreciated is that these teams also need functional skills. The software’s implementation may be technically perfect. But that doesn’t mean that users are enabled to easily analyze the relevant business metrics in the most timely way to leverage the software’s capabilities for the most impact.
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- IT Is the Prime EPM Driver
A sure sign that either reason #1 or #2 (if not both) is in play is if the IT group is the group driving the EPM project. That’s not to say IT’s role is not critical. If the software doesn’t work, nothing else matters. And if technical problems emerge going forward, fixing them will fall on IT. But IT needs direction from functional and business stakeholders in order to know exactly which technical requirements must be met.
- Relevant Stakeholders Are Not Consulted
The corollary to reason #3 is that key stakeholders must be involved. Enterprise performance is, by definition, enterprise wide. That doesn’t just mean direct hands-on users, but also their internal customers, which means senior management and most departments. To the extent relevant stakeholders aren’t consulted, it will likely create blind spots on enterprise performance.
- EPM Project Not Scoped Properly
Reasons #1 to #4 are why projects may not achieve ultimate success even if completed on time, on budget, and with minimal if any disruption. But if the project isn’t scoped properly, it might not only fail to deliver better enterprise performance, the EPM implementation experience itself might be a disaster. Management therefore needs to gauge carefully how much change it wants to accomplish in what time-frame given its resources, needs, and tolerance for change.
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- Going “Big Bang,” Not Incremental
One of cloud’s key advantages is that it enables rapid incremental improvement as business and functional stakeholders use the system and request further enhancements. Organizations would therefore do well to leverage that capability by starting with a limited set of EPM deliverables and make sure those complete successfully first before moving on rather than trying to do everything all at once and risk failure.
- Scope Creep
Aaah, the project managers worst nightmare! But “incremental” doesn’t mean scope creep — adding “a little more” and then “just a little more” to each previously defined deliverable. Scope creep brings all kinds of problems — like missed milestones or when teams get out of sync and deliverables can’t be integrated as planned. Scope creep can also undermine agile. In agile, teams commit to a limited deliverable over a limited time period called a sprint. Only after the sprint concludes does the team commit to a new deliverable. But if the scope of the sprint is allowed to creep then it’s more likely the team’s commitment won’t be met.
- No Clear Milestones or Check-ins
Both the big bang and scope creep problems are less likely to happen if you have clear milestones along the way as your EPM project proceeds and if there are regular check-ins to make sure progress is being met (or to identify and resolve roadblocks where progress is not being met).
- Mystery Subcontractors
One of the biggest (and hidden) landmines that can blow up an EPM project is the use of sub-contractors that have not been vetted. If you’re outsourcing the EPM project make sure you know, and are comfortable with, the individuals who will actually do the work.
- Not Choosing the Right Partner
And, of course, if you are outsourcing the EPM project, you will carefully vet the firm — that they’re strategic, that they’re both functional and technical EPM experts, that they consult relevant stakeholders, that they manage projects properly, and that they truthfully present those who will work on your project.
So, how do we know these are the ten biggest reasons EPM projects fail? The reason for that is all the times Strafford has been asked to come in and save a project that is already failing. Please contact us to let us know how we can help you with your EPM project, and make sure to share your EPM implementation experiences using the comments section below.