In addition to the challenges project managers commonly face, initiatives that revolve around technology—upgrades, expansions, system replacements, etc.—bring their own unique obstacles. These can be especially difficult to navigate when you’re trying to execute a technology-related project in a non-technology organization. If a project that’s heavy on technology is on the horizon for your team, consider where roadblocks are likely to exist and the strategies that can help you overcome them.
At the most basic level, a lack of internal expertise is sometimes enough to sink a technology project. Unless technology is part of your firm’s core business, there are likely to be a wide range of competencies that aren’t available in-house. Are employees knowledgeable enough about infrastructure requirements to specify the correct equipment and services? Do they have the insight necessary to estimate activity durations and identify task dependencies? Outside experts with experience planning and executing technology projects can work with the internal team to determine where additional guidance will be crucial in achieving success.
If an organization already has competent technology people on staff, the team should still recognize that many ERP and SAP implementation projects are so comprehensive that they can quickly strain any internal resources that may be available. Even a relatively well-versed IT team can become overwhelmed as they struggle to balance their day-to-day duties with their assigned project tasks. They will need to monitor critical-path activities, maintain accountability for project duties, identify and resolve potential issues before they have a chance to become problems, and ensure constant communications between the various sub-groups. Accomplishing all of that in a cross-functional project team is often more time-intensive than the on-staff resources can manage alone. And if workforce levels drop or issues surface, either the project’s progress or the organization’s technology operations will suffer while the group attempts to work things out.
Project teams are also facing increasing complexity when it comes to technology initiatives because the scope and impact of today’s technology projects are enormous. Few systems can be launched in standalone mode. In most cases, multiple systems must be interconnected to collect, share, analyze, distribute, and store data efficiently and effectively. Along with bringing all of the primary systems together, the downstream effects on other platforms and processes must also be considered and addressed by the project team. Will employees need to be retrained? Will customers need new login credentials? Will business partners need to revise their own systems to ensure continued access for activities such as billing and order fulfillment? Technology projects have become high-stakes, high-visibility, can’t-fail efforts that can hinder the organization’s long-term survivability if not executed well.
Organizations aren’t always adept at gathering, storing, and leveraging historical information. This presents big problems during a technology project because tribal knowledge is an important component of success, especially when dealing with legacy systems that may have been installed with a number of customizations. Over the years, workarounds have probably been added to keep these older platforms in tune with newer systems, and in most organizations there is little (or no) documentation on either the initial deployment or the changes that have occurred since. Taken together, it can be extremely challenging to dredge up information on older systems, and nearly impossible to recreate the nuances that have come into existence over time unless first-hand knowledge is gathered from the employees, vendors, or other business partners who were originally involved. Without a skilled facilitator to ask the right questions and root out the information the project team needs to move forward, the absence of this tribal knowledge could put the project’s results in jeopardy.