How to Reduce Risk of Tech Project Failure

While the numbers are inconsistent, most data shows that at least half of IT projects fail. We’ve seen tech project failure rates as high as 70% and as low as 51%—but no matter the number, it remains unacceptably high, particularly when deploying complex software such as enterprise resource planning (ERP).

There is light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel. CIO says, “True, project failure no longer brings down the whole IT environment—as it might have done a few decades ago. Nor does it typically mean a new system doesn’t work at all and needs to be completely scrapped, another scenario from IT’s checkered project-delivery history.”

Instead, these IT projects fail to deliver on their promises because of a failure somewhere in the deployment. How can businesses reduce the risks of IT projects to increase their chances of success?

Causes of Tech Project Failure

ERP projects fail or underperform for several reasons. No matter the reason, it’s always a disaster, particularly for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) trying to recoup their investment as quickly as possible because they have less cash to burn. Ironically, just a few small conditions can foul up ROI. Here are some of the biggest IT project risks.

Requirements Gathering Fails

ERP requirements are particularly challenging because these systems touch multiple departments. They require documentation of best business practices to ensure better workflows after installation. The key is working with boots on the ground to understand the flaws in current workflows and how the new platform can fix what’s broken.

Taking on Too Much Too Fast

You can’t sprint your way to deployment. One mistake is assuming the organization can withstand everything on the list of improvements during the first round of an ERP implementation. Big bang implementations throw everything at getting working software in every area of the business. It’s chaos theory applied to real-world environments; it disrupts entire departments and their customers. While you may deploy, it’s messy and frustrating.

Lack of Sponsorship

ERP deployment should not just reside with IT. It’s also a business project. ERP deployment succeeds with support from the top and at the management level in each department. Staff look to executive leadership for direction when facing ERP implementation challenges. If leadership isn’t that into it, your staff won’t be, either. As the project progresses, it’s easy for these stakeholders to assume project execution is on track. Create a transparent process that makes it easier for project managers to admit when they’ve gone off the rails. Business leaders can redirect this train, but only if they’re involved from start to finish.

Another element of these best practices is ensuring the right people are involved in the deployment. The ERP deployment should rest only partially in the hands of your IT department. This project requires critical stakeholder participation at every level, from sales reps to fulfillment and the back office to the front line.

Bad Partner Match Up

The implementation partner you choose is just as important as the software solution type and features of the ERP. It should be as much of a political and cultural fit as experience in the tech stack. Their expertise can guide you to avoid over-budgeting or over-eagerness in project timelines that are too ambitious to complete in the timelines you’ve set.

Best Practices in IT Project Management

We’ve seen enough ERP rollouts to understand best practices. You can avoid the mistakes and pitfalls when deploying these powerful tools. From establishing expectations upfront to disciplined change control, here are the key readiness tips for deploying an ERP.

Manage Expectations

It’s okay to dream a little when you’re deploying an ERP. The sales rep probably has you excited about applying these powerful tools in your business. However, a sobering reality comes with ERP (or any software) implementation; they can’t fix everything. If your goals are fixing business products, gathering and analyzing data for better decision-making, or transforming operations, an ERP can help. But the deployment must be tempered with a healthy dose of reality. Otherwise, the promise won’t live up to the reality for the boots on the ground. Making the project overly complex or with too much customization can harm ROI later. An experienced ERP implementation team can help set expectations for what is possible.

Project Management Rigor

Every project manager knows the phrase, “Failing to plan is like planning to fail.” Ensure the project manager on your ERP implementation has the experience to plan effectively for the go-live. This process includes handling the internal change necessary for ERP adoption. PMs must be patient, flexible, diligent, and resilient to handle a significant deployment. They also must practice enough transparency to admit to mistakes or when they’re in the weeks on time and cost control.

Change Order Control

Change orders happen no matter how much planning goes into your ERP deployment. Change orders can get ugly; they’re often an unexpected expense driving project budgets right over the edge. Planning for this eventuality requires:

  • Managing expectations as part of standardized communications and processes.
  • Establishing a formal change control system, such as a Change Control Board (CCB) that has approval and implementation oversight.
  • Defining procedures for faster decision-making for even the smallest of changes deviating from the plan you’ve set.
  • Leveraging regular oral and written reporting to identify and manage change.
  • Using version control tools for managing and communicating changes.
  • Learning how to say no.

Use project management and other collaborative communication and version control tools to help manage and communicate changes.

The inability to manage change requests has the potential to lead your project into chaos. Know how to recognize change requests that are immaterial to greater project objectives and have the courage to say “No.”

IT Project Team Roles and Responsibilities

Having the right people in the right seats is key to reducing the risks of IT projects, no matter the software. The key players in your ERP implementation will help avoid common IT project risks that often lead to implementation failure. Some key roles and responsibilities for your ERP rollout should include:

  • A Business Analyst to translate features and requirements into action.
  • Technical Consultants with NetSuite ERP implementation experience with specific modules such as HR or supply chain.
  • Solution Architects to create the ERP infrastructure.
  • Data Specialists to help migrate data from existing systems into the ERP.
  • Testers/Quality Assurance Specialists to check features at each deployment stage in a controlled environment before go-live.

These are some of the most common roles filled by a Sikich ERP implementation team. We offer a turnkey solution for SMBs implementing an ERP solution. Our goal is your goal—to reduce the risk of IT implementation failure and increase the speed of your ROI.

Avoiding Common IT Project Risks Start

The risks of tech project failure are many; Sikich can help you avoid them. Our experienced implementation team brings the horsepower an SMB needs to avoid these and other common IT project risks. Our team offers:

  • Unparalleled NetSuite implementation expertise.
  • Best practices developed over years of implementing NetSuite for various SMBs.
  • Industry-specific knowledge to help tailor NetSuite to meet regulatory requirements.
  • Integration expertise across legacy software systems such as eCommerce, CRM, and more.
  • Post-implementation support to ensure faster ROI.

You can avoid the ERP implementation failure. Contact us.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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