New Direction for a Project

Pretty much all companies and organizations have at least 1 project going on to help their company in either the long or short run. Some projects become wildly successful, but many fail, or become a completely different project than expected. My question is though when does it become that time to take a project in a new direction to prevent it from failing?

The company I currently work for is developing a new system that is going to run everything from operations, accounting, reporting, etc., an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning System) system basically. They decided this was needed as one half of the organization was acquired back in 2006 and the two sides of the same company have been operating on two different systems even after the acquisition. The idea is to streamline the two sides of the company all under one umbrella to help keep data, and operations under one roof. I could go into great detail, but basically the goal is to save everyone a lot of time, emails, and money. The project though has been dragging on for two years now, they recently have started testing the new system and there is a number of glitches and unexpected problems, and probably the most hampering is the system itself is far too slow with a lot of lag time. My company in large part has developed and begun to implement this project by themselves, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe it is time to get some help.

Many companies with a project of this scale would enlist the help of consultants that have experience running projects and implementing systems of this scale. I personally feel this would be the way to go for the company to help get this project back on track, as the roll out is long overdue. The questions I have though are is it too late? Specifically that since this project was taken on by the companies IT department it would take a good deal of time and of course money to bring in outside consultants and get them up to speed, if a consulting firm was working on the project from the ground up there wouldn’t be this question. My second question is should the project be scrapped? Again lots of money have been dumped into the project, which to this point has been largely unsuccessful. Is it worth it to continue to dump money into developing the system and get it to work, or would it be better to work with an outside firm such as Oracle to develop a new system?

In class we have learned that it is common practice for a project to change overtime, and the strategy of the company may change as well. Also that when a project is focused on solving a problem of relatively low priority to the company it can become a failure. I feel my company has failed in these two focuses, especially the second one. It seems the focus of the company has been focused on getting this new system rolled out, and in the mean time no one is working to improve the current system which has greatly hampered current operations. Also while this new system will save us some money in the long run, in the short run it seems there are a variety of focuses the company could take that would save a lot of money in a very short time frame, but they are all on the back burner.

I guess my question to you the reader is has your company ever had a project that needed a new direction? Also where you able to determine the timing when you knew the project needed the new direction…aka where you able to get the project on a new track before it officially became a failed project?

3 thoughts on “New Direction for a Project

  1. I am a project manager working on many small engineering projects. We come across frequent changes in requirements due to the nature of projects: small R&D type efforts. That requires change in directions/scope/priorities all the time. Everytime we need a change in direction, we go through a process called ECP (Engineering Change Proposal) where we re-scope the project, change its master schedule, adjust budget and project completion dates and request more time/funding if required. It then goes through the upper management for approval and they either approve it all or put the project on hold.

  2. Your company is holding on to this project because #1 they have already put a lot of money into trying to make it work #2 they actually believe that if they throw even more money at the project it will work. They are ignoring a major economic principle in pursuing this project. Will the return on bringing the project to completion have a positive net present value ignoring the sunk costs? Furthermore, will completing the project using the resources they already have but changing the direction lead to a positive return? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ then they need to scrap the project and start over. I think that project managers become so engrossed in ‘saving’ projects that they do not allow them to fail.

  3. Ginger hit a lot of the key points that I was also thinking while reading through your scenario. Many times companies hold on to a project just because they have already invested so much money into it. While it is understandable, that thinking does not help them make the best decisions. I think there are a few options available: scrap the project if the rewards no longer outweigh the costs remaining, change the scope of the project, or ask for help. I think that admitting that the implementation is not working as planned and hiring a consultant may be worth the money. Having the self awareness to see the problems and to ask for help just might save the project.

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