August 14, 2020

Sometime last year, the Martial Tech team was brought into a project that had gone 12 weeks over-schedule. The team quickly found out that the main reason for the project struggle was the lack of Project Management. The project was treated as a simple system update and was scheduled to be done in 2 weeks. 3 months later, the end was not in sight.


Here is a bit of background. The project started when the vendor reached out to the IT team that they are decommissioning the COTS system and the business had two choices. First, move to their new cloud-based system shared with another company or move to a different system with a new vendor. The business was then told that moving to the cloud would only be an update to the front-end, but all data would remain as it was due to the new system using their existing database.

The project team went on to agree to the so-called system update/upgrade without assessing the impact of such move on business. The project team took the words of the vendor trying to sell their new product without doing their due diligence.

Problems with the project

  1. The supposed non-existent data migration became a botched job as there was no planning for migration. A lot of historical data ended up being lost.
  2. The contract took months to get signed as there were new terms of engagement that the project team did not plan for.
  3. Lastly, the project team found out that the simple update/upgrade brought with it a steep learning curve for users and that led to a huge need for unplanned user training. With no initial training plans and no training schedule, the users could not commit to the training alongside their duties. As a result of most users not getting trained, the system could not go-live even weeks to the decommissioning of the old system.


Actions taken by the Martial Tech team to get the project back on track

After the team was introduced to the project, they did the following to get the project back on track and deliver ahead of the new schedule

  1. Engaged with the internal stakeholders to understand their concerns
  2. Engaged with the vendor to understand the delay
  3. Got the vendor’s team and internal leadership team together to set new expectations
  4. We arrived at an actual project plan for data migration, training, go-live and decommissioning
  5. The contract was signed after all details were sorted out
  6. All parties committed to their deliverables
  7. The training went as planned and the project went live ahead of the new schedule
  8. The old system was successfully decommissioned after 2 weeks of a successful launch
  9. The post-implementation review was positive with all issues resolved on time

Lessons learned

  1. Never start a project without understanding and clarifying your assumptions
  2. Always set expectations right with all stakeholders. Continuous communication is key
  3. Get stakeholders buy-in and commitment to deliverables
  4. Figure out business and system requirements, at least, at a high level prior to starting a project
  5. No project is too small to be planned for because things can all blow up without realizing what went wrong

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