2013 All-day Seminar: Why Systems Implementations Fail 


8/28/2013 – Why Systems Implementations Fail

Slides available in the Members Only Area.

Our 2013 all-day training event featured local IT professionals offering perspectives on why systems implementations fail, lessons learned, and how to plan for success.

Although “failure” is never a goal of an IT implementation, all too often new systems implementations fail to meet expectations. Many implementations arrive late, over-budget and lacking significant features. Others are cancelled before they see the light of day.

Why do so many new systems implementations fail? Although the application often gets the blame, the root cause often has nothing to do with the software.

This all-day seminar examined some of the most common factors that contribute to a failed system implementation, including fuzzy requirements, organizational resistance to change, and going live at all costs. Our speakers shared experiences and lessons learned from successful as well as unsuccessful systems implementations. The presentations offered strategies to avoid common system implementation pitfalls and increase the likelihood of successful system implementations.

“Why New Systems Fail – Overview” Presented by Tina MacGregor Ph.D., CISA, CRISC, CGEIT, GSEC, MCSE, sole proprietor Tina MacGregor, LLC

This introductory presentation provided a high-level view of why many new system implementations fail. Surveys have shown that more than 60% of major system implementations do not do what they were expected to do for the cost and within the expected timeline.

This presentation discussed:

  • The anatomy of a typical system failure, beginning with system selection through to post production support.
  • The failure that can occur - from total disaster, through mild failure, to forthcoming failure.
  • The consequences of system implementation failure including financial loss, data loss, and reputation loss.
  • The expectation gap of over promising and under-delivering, good design can’t fix broken business processes, and going live at all costs.

“Remediating and Moving Forward an Existing PeopleSoft Implementation” – Presented by Chris Daniel, CFA, CPA, ERP Program Manager, City of Albuquerque, New Mexico

This presentation discussed how the City of Albuquerque implemented a plan to move their ERP implementation forward. Topics included: strategic assessment, governance implementation, focus group assessment, organizational structure requirements, developing a phased approach roadmap (remediation, completing the base, deploying additional value-added functionality), acquiring capital, Systems Implementer procurement, instilling a project management mentality, making the system user-driven via business case development/business process re-engineering/user group engagement, and more.

“The Human Side of Systems Implementations” – Presented by Peter Chew, D.Phil., CPA, CFE, Principal Investigator, Galisteo Consulting Group, Inc

A big reason for success or failure of a system implementation is often human factors, rather than software. This presentation examined the human side of systems implementations, which includes:

  • How new systems change patterns of work, and even power structures in an organization
  • How systems developers can work with users during the development and training phases to maximize the probability of success
  • The concept of “affordances” – this means how obvious it is to users how to actually use a system
  • Defining requirements up-front or after development has started? (pros and cons of both approaches)
  • The difference between the outcomes and outputs of a system, and what this has to do with system usability

Peter drew on both academic literature on systems adoption, and personal experience as a consultant in implementing systems for private and public sector clients over the last 10 years.

“The Failure to Success Continuum for System Implementations” – Presented by Elizabeth E. Barrett, SCPM, Strategic Project Management, LLC

Software system implementations are often considered a success or failure based on perceptions or specific criteria of those involved in the project. However, a project’s success or failure is more often represented by a continuum between two end points: The project may be a success in some respects, a failure in others. Common reasons for system implementation failure may include resource limitations, financial constraints, inadequate requirements and/or project scope, a lack of sufficient testing, etc. Project managers may face additional challenges with project governance, project roles, project politics, and the ability for an organization to be prepared for the changes associated with the implementation. Ms. Barrett discussed her experiences with the success and failure continuum, including selected case studies. Ms. Barrett also presented mitigation strategies aimed at avoiding some of the unlikely pitfalls experienced with system implementations.

“Mitigating Security Risks for New Applications” – Presented by Robert Childs, Chief Operating Officer for Computational Analysis and Network Enterprise Solutions, LLC® (CAaNES®)

Each new system and application brings with it new security risks and requirements. If these are not addressed up front in requirements definitions and built in as part of the system / application design, security issues and failures will likely follow! So, how do you ensure security is built in up front and compliance requirements are maintained for new systems? How will a new application affect your current IT controls or compliance standing? A proactive, risk-based approach to ensure information security controls are identified and implemented for new systems is to develop and document an ‘Information Security Plan’ for all new application systems. Such a plan identifies and defines the security risks, requirements and processes for the new application. This presentation discussed the policy needed to make this happen, identifying risks, how to integrate with your project management methodology and the details of developing the security plan using a template approach.

Lessons Learned in Selecting, Implementing, and Operating an ERP System – Presented by David Wascom, CIO, VP of IT, Summit Electric Supply

This presentation covered how Summit Electric moved from a legacy business system to SAP, and presented lessons learned along the journey. We covered the entire lifecycle of Summit’s decision to implement SAP to go-live, with emphasis on the following topics:

  • Initial system requirements documentation
  • Evaluation and selection of an implementation partner
  • Implementation team selection (internal resources)
  • Implementation process and project management
  • Business change management
  • Business training and preparation
  • Go-live and post-go-live support
  • Enhancement process

Training for Systems Implementations: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Presented by Jillian O’Brien, Training Consultant and Facilitator: Training-Forward

Systems implementations are not for the faint hearted. Even if every other step in the implementation goes off without a hitch, it can come to a screaming halt if training is done poorly, or worse, entirely ignored. This presentation illustrates the value of good, bad, and ugly end-user training with systems implementations. We will explore what happens when training is ugly, see what happens when training is just plain bad, and finally see what it takes to make training, good, valuable, and successful for both the end user and you.