The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.  In previous postings I’ve discussed the Good and the Bad projects.  In this posting I’m going to address the Ugly!

The ugliest project I’ve been a part of occurred early in my career, long before I went to work for BTRG.  The project consisted of a financials and HR implementation.  From the very beginning it was obvious this was going to be a difficult endeavor.  My first day on the project I walked into the conference room, known as the “war room”, and it was quickly apparent just how appropriate the term “war room” was.  On the white board one of the client employees had written, “What do you call 100 consultants at the bottom of the ocean?”  Answer: A good start!  This inappropriate joke was a prelude of what was to come and displayed the client’s negative mindset of consultants.

To give you a little background on the company, it was a small electric utility.  The IT department consisted of half a dozen people.  They were used to doing things their way.  The IT department drove business decisions based on the functionality of the software in-house rather than acting as a service organization to the functional departments.  The Controller, who was responsible for this project, was new to the company.  He was brought in to make changes at the company, beginning with the functional community driving the business decisions and the IT department supporting those decisions with the appropriate technology.  It turned into an all-out war between the IT department and the Controller.  On more than one occasion the Controller was physically threatened, thankfully, nothing ever came of it.  This example gives you an idea of just how hostile the project and company environment was.

As consultants, we were caught in the middle.  Unfortunately, the consultant project manager was inexperienced and ineffective which exacerbated an already ugly situation.   The result of this chaotic and hostile project environment was extreme budget overruns and missed go-live dates, to say nothing of the mental health of the project team.

The question I pose to you, my readers, is what could have been done to produce a positive outcome?   Three things come to mind for me:

  1. Strong executive leadership should have come to the forefront to deal with the hostile situation between the IT department and the Controller.  That strong leadership was missing in this case.
  2. Change management was missing from this project.  Not only was a major change taking place in the form of a new ERP system but the company was attempting to make changes organizationally.  Change management can’t be stressed enough when it comes to major system or organizational changes.
  3. A different consultant project manager should have been brought in.  Someone much more experienced with strong managerial and leadership skills.

I’m very interested in hearing from you and what steps you think could have been taken to turn this project around and make it successful. Have any of you ever experienced a situation like this one? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from this experience? I look forward to hearing from you!

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