I've been involved in IT and Supply Chain projects all over the world. I've seen projects achieve all of the objectives, come in under budget and ahead of schedule. I've also seen projects fail to achieve the benefits they set out to, or even outright fail to even work.
And what's the #1 difference between success and failure?
When I am contacted by a prospective client to discuss a new ERP system, I always make sure that the first meeting includes key decision makers. You may say, "well of course! You don't want to sell to someone who isn't authorized to make the purchase." And you'd only be 1/2 right...
The real reason that the key decision maker needs to be in the very first meeting is because if they aren't "driving the bus", then everyone will end up under it. What I mean is that technology projects are complicated and fraught with challenges just by their very nature. If someone at the top of the organization isn't driving the success of the project, then it will not work. It may finish, albeit over budget and over schedule, but I can almost guarantee that it won't meet the business objectives set at the beginning.
Sometimes a CFO or CEO looks at me funny during the first sales meeting because I've refused to meet with the "IT guy" and insist on meeting with them as well. After I explain the reasoning behind it and start the Q&A session that is outlined in the "Unlock Your Potential" program, they are always heavily engaged and demand to be significant contributors along the way. This is because we create value right at the very first meeting and if there is no significant ROI demonstrated right at the beginning for them, then it ends right there. No one is wasting time.
When the senior leadership is engaged at the beginning of the sales process, they can have a vision of the solution and understand the objectives right at the outset. We always make sure that when we publish the Project Charter, it states clearly what the objectives of the project are; not in "subjective terms", but in real, tangible benefits.
This way, when the project hits a couple of bumps along the way (they always do), the senior management team is aligned to the goals and objectives and the project is put right back on the tracks.
Depending on the complexity of the project, I also sometimes recommend a steering committee or program office be formed to manage the project along the way.
I'll get into those details in the next post...