Guest Contributor – Andreas Fellner, Chief Information Officer at Innovative Hearth Products
No Time To Waste
In the last 15 years, I have worked on large, often global and complex, IT implementations using SAP solutions.
Over the years, I have seen how complex IT projects impact the careers of executives and their teams. In some cases, deep involvement with the project and technical aptitude has excelled a career. However, the opposite is more often the case, and careers have been sent into a tailspin.
There are major pitfalls during the project itself, but also after the implementation.
When the decision is made to start a large IT implementation, executives have no time to waste and need to quickly get familiar with the project and the new system.
Correct Level of Involvement
It is important for executives to quickly realize the complexity of the implementation and the system. This includes recognizing the amount of work it will take, the critical nature of key decisions to be made, and the impact of the new system on operating the business, including the ability to make routine business decisions.
If you and your staff don’t get involved with the project, you might one day walk into a meeting with the CEO and be confronted with a dashboard report that clearly shows your department is causing problems and you are viewed as someone that is not taking care of obvious issues.
In order to avoid that career-limiting moment, you have to be steps ahead and understand the new system, processes, and reports.
The most dramatic and dangerous situation for an executive is a standstill on the project caused by a pending business decision or deliverable. IT projects are brutal in pointing out who is responsible. If you are lucky, there are several pending decisions at a given point, but often there is a sole owner. While the project is waiting, the contractors burn through the budget.
Other issues are less transparent because the ramifications only show after the implementation, sometimes years later. Wrong design decisions are typical examples. They can cause significant costs and even bring down a business.
A Few Suggestions
- Assign sufficient and highly-qualified resources to the project and make sure you can still run your day-to-day operations. Ideally, project resources are assigned to the project 100%. A good rule-of-thumb is to double the IT effort to estimate the business resources required. If your organization doesn’t approve backfills, then cut-out all non-critical activities and have your operational team focus on the priorities.
- Find a contractor who understands your business and demand that the contractor fully evaluate different options in regards to business goals. Insist on staying as close as possible to the standard solution of the software. Tell the contractor in clear business terms what you want to achieve and document those requirements.
- Get familiar with the new business processes that will be implemented with the IT system and anticipate what reports you will need in order to run an efficient and effective organization. Go with standard system reports first, because your reporting needs will change within a few months after implementation.
- Implement a quality management process for the project deliverables and review any documentation in detail. Make sure it’s accurate and comprehensive.
- Adopt a strictly fact-based and logical decision making approach and challenge your team to present holistic solutions.
- Get involved and take ownership of the implementation in your department. Have at least 1 or 2 meetings per week to get informed about the project and drive decisions.
Large IT projects are great opportunities for executives to move their organizations to a higher level of performance.
They are also dangerous times and executives who fail to lead may find their careers in ruin.
Although the required commitment is large, it is worth the effort you must expend to lead your team to success.
About Andreas Fellner
Andreas is a highly-driven, entrepreneurial, and decisive Global IT Executive (CIO, CTO) and top SAP Expert who implements leapfrog IT strategies delivering and accelerating competitive advantages and strong bottom/top line improvements. He has delivered more than $600M in realized measurable business benefits.
Andreas drives time-critical, highly visible complex business and IT transformations (turn-arounds, M&A, divestitures, carve-outs, organizational redesigns, and restructures) with bleeding-edge methodology and a focus on delivering exceptional results. As an experienced change leader. Andreas is a visionary excelling in building, motivating, and retaining high-performing and efficient IT organizations.