Business Process Consulting – Implementation Success Starts at the Top

LeadershipFor a Business Process Review and System Implementation to be successful, Senior Management must support the Project.

Whoever is given the responsibility must have commensurate authority – specifically, the final say on implementation details.  The Consultant must have full access to every department and employee.  When dealing with Vendors, the Consultant needs to be the only voice of Senior Management and have complete control of every interaction with the Vendor – short of signing a contract or issuing payment.

It is critical that Staff understand that Senior Management has mandated that the Consultant has been empowered to effect change.   This will assist with Employees becoming part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

We have all heard the expression, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”  This is especially true in when managing a new System Implementation Project.  The Consultant must be a Benevolent Dictator to assure success.  The Consultant will interview all stakeholders, objectively listen, and document concerns.  In a perfect world, the new system will address the needs of everyone.  Unfortunately, no System is ever perfectly designed.  To that end, it is the Consultant, who must be allowed to determine where compromises will be made in the final design and implementation since he or she is held singly responsible for the project’s success or failure.  Remember:  Responsibility with Commensurate Authority.

Man Question MarkI can tell you from firsthand experience that Implementation Projects immediately falter and are doomed to fail when Senior Management waivers on the delegation of control, starts to second guess decisions, or dictates ill-advised changes.  It is the Consultant, the keeper of all project knowledge, who is the most qualified to “Steer the Ship.”  For a Senior Manager, even if he is the President of the Company to step in and force a change without all of the facts and background virtually guarantees failure or at least significant budget overruns.

Here is a real world example:  I was the Project Manager operating with full authority for the implementation of a new Donor Management System for a large non-profit.  Over the course of decades, the original system had been converted from a paper based one and at least two prior computer based accounting/donor management systems.  Although the statement of each account balance total was absolutely correct, due to prior conversion issues, manual journal entries and adjustments had been made to the accounts to get all of the funds to balance properly.  When attempting to import the original transaction detail items to recreate and obtain matching statement balances in the new system, it became impossible because of the prior manual adjustments – which were not reflected in the individual transactions being imported.

The planned solution was to generate a final statement from the old system and start fresh with verified opening account balance totals in the new system and send clients two statements showing the overlap.  The CEO stated that it was “unacceptable” to send clients two statements and that “no matter what” we would have to import transaction detail from the old system and get the numbers to balance in the new system.  The CEO mandate was that the client should continue to receive one statement with all transaction detail since inception of the account.  We attempted this process for weeks.  Every time an adjustment was made in the new system to try to emulate the original manual entries in the old system, we would balance one account and throw off another.  A month passed then two, then three.  Instead of clients receiving two statements, clients received no statements or for the largest clients who complained the loudest, statements were typed up by hand.

Fortunately, the CEO eventually relented and the Project was put back on track with the original solution of delivering a final statement from the original system with the historical transaction detail and a statement with a matching opening balance from the new system.

Elephant PerspectiveTo my point above, tens of thousands of dollars were wasted on unnecessary programming and consulting time to try to resolve a problem caused by entirely by the CEO’s meddling in the solution.  The CEO was unaware of the conversion problem, which had been resolved in the original solution, and made a decision based on incomplete information.

Senior Management must have full faith and confidence in the experience of the Consultant hired and the Implementation Team to make the best choices for the Project to be a Success.

Remember, it all starts at the top.

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