The Hidden Drawbacks of IT Projects: Three Reasons Why Your System Implementation Will Fail

Thomas Hamata

Imagine a scenario where instead of a seamless integration of a new system in your business, you face a cascade of detrimental outcomes: Finger-pointing, budget overruns, employee resistance and operational disruptions by a system that hinders, rather than enhances, day-to-day operations.

These risks are not mere hypotheticals; they are the real and tangible dangers that loom over poorly executed system implementations.

This exploration sheds light on the primary reasons behind system implementation failures and offers insights into how they can be averted, paving the way for a successful digital transformation journey.

UNCLEAR OR SHIFTING REQUIREMENTS

When businesses embark on system implementations, they often have a general idea of their goals, but lack specific, detailed requirements.
This clarity is crucial, especially when outsourcing the implementation to a consultant.

Contrary to some beliefs, consultants’ understanding of your needs depends entirely on how well these requirements are articulated by you, the client.

Vagueness can lead to constantly changing requirements throughout the project, resulting in a cycle of costly adjustments and compromises that can derail the project’s trajectory.

To navigate these challenges, a robust initial analysis is essential to extract and document detailed requirements.

It’s crucial to ask the right questions and delve deep into the needs, constraints and expectations associated with the system.

Importantly, this stage should be led by the business function adopting the system, as they have a deeper understanding of their own needs and challenges, compared to the IT department whose primary role is to provide technical solutions supporting the broader business goals.

This phase should not be rushed, as the clarity achieved sets the tone for the entire project.

Job Angula

INADEQUATE TESTING AND QUALITY ASSURANCE

Embarking on a system implementation without thorough testing and quality assurance can lead to catastrophic failures that not only cost you financially, but can also erode trust and reputation.

Consider the 1990’s case of the USA’s Denver International Airport’s attempt to innovate baggage handling with a fully mautomated system.

Due to inadequate testing, the project, initially aimed at enhancing efficiency and reducing manual labour across three terminals, exceeded its deadline by 16 months and went US$560 million over budget.

Eventually, the system was abandoned due to high maintenance costs, and a manual system established for baggage operations.

Testing and quality assurance are not mere nice-to-haves in the implementation process; they are the critical checks that ensure the system can withstand real-world challenges and deliver on its promises.

These processes help stress-test the system in every conceivable scenario it might encounter in the real world and assure the integrity and security of the system.

This phase should involve not just the IT team, but also the end-users, to ensure that the system is not only technically sound, but also user-friendly and relevant to everyday operations.

OVERLOOKING THE HUMAN ELEMENT

It’s a critical mistake to assume that once the technical side of a project is completed, the work is done.

Change is fundamentally a human issue. It involves moving out of comfort zones, learning new skills and often altering long-standing work habits.

Imagine a team accustomed to a certain workflow for years suddenly being asked to adapt to an entirely new system.

It’s not just a change in tools; it’s a change in their professional lives. Anxiety and resistance associated with this transition are natural human responses. This aspect of implementation is often underestimated, yet it is as crucial as the technical deployment itself. Overlooking it can lead to resistance, confusion and ultimately, project failure.

The only intelligent course is to ensure that change management specialists form part of your implementation team.

Before a single software update is rolled out, it’s essential to communicate the ‘why’ behind the change.

People need to understand the reasons for the shift and how it benefits not just the business, but them personally.

This understanding builds a foundation of acceptance. Training is another critical component of change management. If end-users are not adequately trained, they might find the new system complex and intimidating.

This lack of understanding can lead to underutilisation or even misuse of the system, negating the benefits it was intended to bring.

CONVERGENCE

The journey of system implementation is much like conducting a symphony. Each section – the business leaders, IT department, end-users and project consultants – must play their part in harmony.

It’s a composition that demands both technical acumen and a deep understanding of human nature.

The business leaders must articulate a clear vision, the IT team or consultants must translate this vision into a functional reality, and the users must be guided to embrace and excel in this new environment.

When these elements converge harmoniously, what emerges is not just a new system, but a transformed organisation, poised for greater efficiency, growth and innovation.

– Thomas Hamata and Job Angula are certified technology risk experts and the co-founders of Accelerate Advisory Services. They can be reached on www.acceler8namibia.com.

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