Too much Slack?

In class today we learned about the concept of slack when looking at a project layout. Each step of the project has so many days to complete, and each project step may have some slack time so long as it isn’t in the project’s main path. Many projects are dissected down to every bit of detail to where we know each steps time frame. Again like we did in class today or through a Microsoft Project program you can layout the full project and each steps time frame to get you that given slack time. Throughout much of class today though I was thinking in many cases this could lead to problems especially if departments have this information. Employees may wait until the last possible minute to complete their scheduled task, or take a bit more time than they should to complete coding, or whatever it is they may be assigned to.

Now of course a simple solution to this problem is to have a strong project manager that can continuously motivate employees and keep everyone on task, but still when most employees are presented with the fact that they have some extra leeway not much will stop them from taking advantage of it. Through a work experience of my own, even I as the project / event manager took advantage of this time at a previous job. I was in charge of several large bowling events throughout Illinois, we had the projects lined out much like we have done in class, we had the time frames mapped out, we knew the tasks, and we knew that we would always give ourselves that cushion to get the project fully done of a couple weeks. Sure enough we took every tournament preparation right down to the wire, there were many late nights spent the day before a tournament getting everything prepped and ready for the next day. Every single time we would ask ourselves why did we wait till the last minute? Every single time we would just go back and do it again. Sure we got the project completed, and did it quite well, but we took full advantage of the time we had.

So my question is how do your employers handle this type of issue to ensure a certain department or team doesn’t take advantage of the “extra 10%” of the slack, or even the budget for that matter? Is there a way to do it without offering an incentive to project team or departments to be on time or is that the only solution?

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?