Editor’s note: George Harrison of Project Managers, Inc. is a senior management consultant with over 18 years of experience.Many consultants will tell you that the numbers on your project show that it will have a fantastic return on investment (ROI). Their numbers show a remarkable profit margin in terms of what you put out for new technology versus what you’re bringing in as a result of the project. What these consultants will often leave out is that new technology solutions typically impact other functional areas of your company in such a way as to overwhelm the return on an investment.
Many projects are not limited to merely Information Technology, or any other single area, for that matter. A good consultant or firm will look beyond simple ROI numbers in terms of new technology and attempt to identify and understand all of the project’s cross-functional impacts.
While serving in a consulting role to the personnel director for a local government, I recently experienced this all too-common failure from a personal perspective. The software vendor had been hired by the Information Technology department to provide overall project management services for the installation of their new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package. I asked the vendor if they had reviewed the organization chart and job descriptions of the HR/Personnel department, as they were responsible for entering all payroll hours for county personnel. The vendor had erroneously assumed it was the finance department’s role. Suddenly, the vendor was faced with additional technology infrastructure costs, software licensing and the need for more testing and new training requirements for the HR/Personnel staff.
The above is a shining example of a situation that could have been avoided had all cross functional impacts of the project been identified early on during the project lifecycle. It is a simple concept, but this particular software vendor proves that all too often it is overlooked.
It does not matter who is “in charge of” or “responsible for” certain aspects of your project. The simple fact of the matter is that the project manager must be accountable for at least knowing and understanding all affected business processes and cataloging the cross functional impacts the new technology will have. To truly drive a project and make it work, you must care for all functional areas during project assessment as well as project implementation. There is simply no way around it.
It is not your consultant’s job merely to tell you about the return on your investment in new technology. It is the consultant and project manager’s job to make sure that all bases have been covered. A good consultant will be able to advise you on all aspects of the project, not just the ROI and simple numbers. He or she should be asking these questions relating to people, process and technology:
What impact will the new technology have on your customers? Employees? Shareholders?
How will customer service or any other processes need to be modified?
Are there any legal, audit or regulatory considerations?
Is your existing staff adequately skilled to support the new technology? Can the company’s training department address any skill set deficiencies?
What do your marketing or engineering divisions need to be aware of, considering the changes about to take place?
How does the new technology “fit” in your technical architecture? How will it interface/integrate with other technologies/systems?
A project is quite often like a balloon: When you squeeze a balloon in one area, another area of the balloon must accommodate the air that has been displaced. Make sure that your strategy doesn’t squeeze your project in such a way as to transfer the original problem to another area of your organization.
George Harrison, PMP, is a Senior Management Consultant with over 18 years of practical experience including Process Improvement, Change Management and Project Management. George is a Six Sigma Black Belt and HelixPLAN facilitator. Project Managers, Inc., founded in 1998, serves executives that need to ensure the successful implementation of mission-critical, business transformational initiatives. In addition to sound program/project management practices, the firm specializes in mitigating the top failure risks, cross-functional and relational, required to ensure client success.