A Software Implementation Nightmare of Epic Proportions – Part 4

The software horrors at “Hope”, the multi-national non-profit charity, have racked up by the minute. What started out as a plan to simplify, improve efficiency and expand donations turned into trial balloon filled with hot air. Project delays, changes and problems have sent costs skyward.

In Part 4 of this series, Hope’s newly-hired mediator reflects on what happened, what could have been prevented, and the Herculean effort required to slay the beast.

Picking up the Pieces

When Michael picked up the phone and “Hope” started to reveal its tragic tale, he couldn’t believe it. Everything that could go wrong in this case did go wrong. Everything that he ever would have wanted to protect a client from happened to this one. And there were people hurt, both financially and morally. This was a charity on the brink of exhaustion – and it didn’t have to be that way.

Michael had heard this kind of story before. As a software implementation consultant he preferred getting involved from the ground up. Coming in at this stage was going to be challenging.

“The thing is Hope started in a fine state of fantasy, as most do,” says Michael. “There was a hurt, a pain, a need to change, and there was a wonderful groundswell of fantasy as to what was possible. And then the service provider – the vendor – is brought in and the fantasy is unleashed. Now everyone has joined the fantasy.”

The wrong turn took place with both Hope and the vendor believing that project management was something anyone could do.

Back to the Drawing Board

Michael agreed to negotiate between the two parties. That included signing off on items that were incomplete and bringing an end to the financial pain. It also included obtaining commitments for work that still needed to be done.

There was no question, both sides would lose something.

“Even in this day and age, software providers have a difficult time managing project risk, establishing project scope and controlling requirements and customer expectations,” he says.

Companies, particularly those with fewer than 50 employees, are tempted to role-mash – turning their consultants into project managers, for which they are ill-equipped.

On both sides, this is where the monster lies. Without clear and strong project management – one working for the vendor, and the other for the customer – a hydra-headed beast is bound to emerge. It’s like asking the airplane mechanic to fly the plane.

Finding the Right Maestro

“Think about it – the average controller will experience two-to-three projects of this scope in a career, while the average vendor experiences 300. Who’s more qualified? Adding a project advocate or consultant to the mix will help you plan your trip and evaluate your pilots,” Michael explains.

This doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t get good help – they can. Hiring a third-party project manager could save thousands in the long-run.

A good project manager:

  • Sets scope and defines requirements of the project;
  • Identifies and addresses risk points of the project;
  • Carves out objectives into manageable projects rolled out over time;
  • Determines how the project should be managed;
  • Advises on additional options if there is a visible gap;
  • Evaluates vendor integrity;
  • Reviews and evaluates enterprise and technical design documents.

“In this situation, the cost of the project has probably reached close to $500,000 and it was supposed to be a $200,000 project,” Michael says. “The system is now working, but there are some things still hanging. There has been some damage, but donors are coming back. Getting an advocate involved from the beginning, that would have really helped. A $20,000 advocacy fee would have gone a long way.”

Will “Hope” ever recover from this software implementation nightmare? See how their story ends next Thursday in Part 5 of – A SOFTWARE IMPLEMENTATION NIGHTMARE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS. If you missed last week’s chapter, be sure to read Part 3.

Related Posts: