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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Your Project Sponsor is a Risk

Enterprise IT applications are supposed to help organizations with collaboration and cost reduction. Additionally, they should assist in gaining personnel efficiencies by helping to provide access to information required to make timely management decisions. As every project manager knows these enterprise applications can be difficult to implement, and often don’t deliver on their promises. Why is this? I believe the number one reason for enterprise software implementation project failure is the lack of a strong, engaged, focused, and available executive sponsor.

IT customers are demanding more from their software and want results that help them reduce their bottom line, gain efficiencies, and do more with less. Line managers have a justified fear of giving up control of their legacy applications because of past IT miscues and screw-ups (YES, ALL IT DEAPARTMENTS ARE GUILTY OF MISCUES AND SCREW-UPS). A project manager’s job is to help integrate departmental business processes across the enterprise to help ensure the software meets the customer’s needs. A project manager can’t accomplish this task on his or her own. Implementing an enterprise software application can be a daunting task and requires the skills and talents of many people. When these projects fail responsibility is shared by all stakeholders, but the blame falls equally between the project manager and the project sponsor.

PM FOR DUMMIES 101 - In order to successfully implement enterprise IT applications organizations first need to create the culture and climate that ensures investments in information technology contribute to a desired future outcome rather than continuing past practices.

Project Manager Tip – PLAN then DO Quickly. The just “do it” culture is usually a culture fraught with project failures and ruined careers. Run from a job that requires that the project manager follow the failed mantra that says “Ready, Fire, Aim”!

Many departments in today’s organizations feel they are locked into their legacy applications and are resistant or refuse to change. This legacy thinking is the main impediment to change (i.e. your project). Some people refer to these legacy applications as “code museums”. The people holding on to these legacy applications don’t have the vision of the enterprise. For this reason it is important to have a senior executive as a project sponsor when implementing an enterprise application. The sponsor articulates the vision and drives the change to the culture, PERIOD. NEVER forget this fact.

Finally, the executive sponsor must understand the technology being implemented, the culture where the change is taking place, and the benefits of implementing the desired solution. He or she must be willing to “kick some ass” to get the solution implemented in a timely fashion, and ensure the solution provides the required benefits to the organization.

Remember: An invisible project sponsor is your project’s biggest risk.


Unknown said...

Yes, the responsibility of a failed project should be shared by all stakeholders. In reality it is put no the project manager. If the project sponsor is invisible then the project manager is not communicating to the sponsor enough. Communication is the key. The project manager communicates to the sponsor and the stakeholders. The project sponsor communicates to everyone.
I do not think the "Ready, Fire, Aim" mantra is wrong or flawed. No project starts off 100 completely perfect. But every project should start of ready. The necessary scope documents and WBS should be done before you fire.

Ray Keckler

Unknown said...

Just to take this conversation even further: what happens in the case where there is co-sponsorship? With multiple sponsors on the project, where does the accountability lie? Is it with the sponsor who controls the $$? Or is it with the one who is most involved?