Been There, Done That…

The sales guy is all excited about the order he has bagged. He shoots off
e-mails to virtually everyone on the floor and a meeting is hurriedly summoned.
Unrealistic deadlines are set and ambitiously agreed to. Still in high spirits,
he zooms off to his next coup in hard sell, while the operational team is left
holding the baby.

The team realizes that it would be best to rethink the whole project.
“But there’s a commitment to clients, Mr Hard-sell has got his key result
areas (KRAs) to meet and we’ve got ours.” So, a race against time.

Even as India Inc digitizes at a rapid pace, enterprises across industries as
diverse as automobiles and confectionery are proudly adding
“IT-enabled” to their list of “Been there…done that.” But
behind nearly every success story that adorns corporate brochures lies a saga of
unrealistic expectation, user frustration and functional disaster compounded by
delays in the deployment cycle.

Rajat Mathur, general manager, e-Commerce, Wipro Infotech, points out that
the most critical issue is to ensure an effective handover from the
sales/pre-sales team to the project delivery team. “This is neglected as
sales and pre-sales teams have a tendency to over-commit and have little
knowledge of the implementation of a feature in the manner desired by the
customer,” says Mathur.

“Not surprisingly, research shows that only 9% of projects undertaken by
large companies in the US are on time, on budget,” says N Rajashree, senior
manager, process and quality at Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS). The
scenario is not too different in India.

What could be wrong?

Apart from logistics and technical issues, people management seems to be the
key problem area. “The complexity of team communication increases with its
size,” says Rajashree. “A five-person team has 120 possible
communication combinations. A 10-person project has 362,880. When the team is
dispersed over multiple geographic sites and time zones, a single communication
gap can lead to serious delays.”

Then there is user resistance to process change. BG Srinivas, head for
enterprise solutions at Infosys Technologies, believes that users are naturally
reluctant to modify any of their activities and depending on the position of the
person in the organizational hierarchy, it could delay implementation.
“There are also people who, for vested interests, could sabotage the
project’s completion,” says Srinivas.

Vrinda Ballal, who heads the project office and software quality assurance
division at Opus Software, Pune, supplements these factors. “Insufficient
knowledge of the application, lack of clarity on the role to be played by
various people from the enterprise and resistance to adopt to standard

Dr Sujit Banerjee, country manager, strategic outsourcing, IBM India, points
out that an implementation involves consolidation, which could result in issues
of job redundancy as well as redeployment of people.

SAP consulting director Avijit Biswas adds that executive direction, quality
of team, level of training, culture of decision-making and, of course,
willingness to and readiness for change are the factors that drive the timeline
during the blueprinting phase.

On the technical front, a wrongly selected enterprise application interface
and unexpected bugs could send timelines into a tailspin. “Potential
interfaces should be identified right away and data definition and process
firmed up early in the implementation,” says Alok Tandon, director – sales
and marketing, Baan Info Systems India.

CP Gurnani, COO, HPS (HCL Perot), cites the case of a multinational consumer
durable company in which the ERP project was initiated in the month of October
and the go-live was planned for April the following year. “Mid-way through
the project, the company realized that March-June is the peak business period
and it could not afford to have any business disruptions due to ERP going live.
The project, therefore, had to be stalled,” recalls Gurnani, highlighting
the importance of meticulous planning and taking into account all factors.

What can be done?

Best Man In: Before you entrust the functioning of your
business to an outside agency, make sure you verify the credentials of your
implementation partner. The management should thoroughly assess the product
features and its suitability to organization business processes and future
needs. “It is worthwhile getting in a few key business domain-owners
trained in ERP product features to evaluate the ERP product capabilities before
taking a leap,” cautions Jobcurry CEO Rajan Bhatnagar.

“Also, make sure that you bring in people with knowledge
of both processes and applications,” says Avijit Biswas of SAP.

Storyboard: Meticulous planning is crucial to a project.
Before you begin, get the following down on paper–the purpose of the project,
accurate user expectations, an implementation plan, a communication plan,
processes to address issues and risks, review meeting schedule, a training plan,
testing and post-production plan and internal publicity, as well as strategy for
showcasing of the project.

Atul Takle, V-P for corporate communications at TCS,
advocates close evaluation of the product and defining the gap strategy. “A
commitment from partners/vendors to ensure the success of the project
helps,” he says. The management should be able to visualize the application
and its infrastructure architecture. The focus should be on simplicity at the
user-end while relegating the complex features to the back-end.

“It is important to fall back on an architecture which
is heterogeneous, does not create islands or promote religions of technology,
delivers speed of application deployment and usage, predictable availability and
helps give IT sanity with universal mobility,” says Anil Menon, director
for business development at Citrix Systems India. Menon stresses that security
is paramount, as is the need to use the Internet as the critical infrastructure
while planning to build a framework to co-exist with legacy infrastructure and
future Web services framework.

Infrastructure: Preparing the production environment is an
important aspect of planning for deployment. This includes hardware, network,
the installation plan, architecture, resources and processes.

Hilal Ishar Khan, manager for IT at Honda Siel, urges
enterprises to prepare a checklist before the arrival of the implementation
partner. “The implementation partner should give a clear idea about the
number of PCs, peripherals, manpower and external infrastructure required for
the project. Preparing advance schedules based on this will iron out all
problems related to logistics,” says Khan.

Byte by Byte: Phased implementation in small cycles of
modules works better than a big-bang approach, as it reduces risk and improves
the flow of funds. “Deliver interim solutions to get users’ buy-in,”
quips Mphasis COO Ramesh Padmanabhan.

People can actually learn from mistakes made in the first
phase, reshuffle the team if required, deploy resources as per current needs as
well as assess and control the project more easily. “The user community
always wants to see some quick successes. Long project life-cycles may bring
down the enthusiasm in project teams,” says Rajavel Sekaran, associate
director, Cambridge Technology Partners, India (a 100% subisidiary of Novell
Inc). The head of solution architects at Mastek, PK Mallik, says enterprises
should adopt a spiral methodology to deliver in smaller bits and go for a
product-based solution to reduce variations.

Feasibility Check: Projects are often driven by
over-ambition. Fantastic features added to the blueprint without considering
whether it is possible to implement these.

Oracle India’s Somesh Bhagat cites the case of a CRM
implementation gone awry. “The CRM application was not Internet-enabled and
needed time-consuming client updates. There were new versions all the time. It
took so long to update client software and so frequently that users lost
interest. Many of them were on different versions as the updates could not keep
pace with he changes,” recalls Bhagat. The lesson-using Internet-based
deployment, as against client server implementation, saves time.

Dr NJ Rajaram, research and development head of Aptech’s
training and education division, describes another scenario where the primary
reason for delay was the lack of IT architecture. “Architecture must be
able to minimize integration costs. Framing architectures that rely on
middleware supporting XML, SOAP (simple object access protocol), and UDDI
(universal description, discovery, and integration) could have reduced the
deployment cycle,’’ says Rajaram.

No Scope Creep? The scope of the project is laid out. Then,
you have customers demanding additional functionaly. That throws schedules off
gear. “Strict monitoring is essential to avoid scope creep. Let additional
requirements be taken up in subsequent phase,” says Rajan Bhatnagar of
Jobcurry. The best way to manage scope is to implement basic functionalities
first before trying complex scenarios.”Avoid customisation if it can be met
through work arounds,” says Yash Nagpal, MD, Navision India. After all, the
more the customization, more the time to implement. Scope Creep can be avoided
through proper documentation and sign off.

No Teary Good Byes: Sign-offs on ‘To-Be’ processes are a
must. “Quick sign-offs between user champions and product managers for
various modules will ensure that the project sticks to the schedule. Lay down a
clear-cut exit criteria,” says Rajat Mathur of Wipro.

Blessed by the Big Boss? Deploying an enterprise application
is often seen as an ‘IT project’ to be handled by the IT department with no
active support from the business drivers in the organisation. “Senior
management commitment is an absolute must for the success of a project,”
says Mphasis COO Ramesh Padmanabhan.

Opus Software’s Vrinda Ballal’s strategy is to include
influential people in the implementation team. “A regular steering
committee with top management involvement ensures that the drive is
maintained,” she says.

IBM country manager Sujit Banerjee too reiterates the
importance of management push in ensuring speedy implementation.

Gourmet’s Delight: The proof of the pudding, no doubt, lies
in the eating. Implementing a technically-superior application that complicates
the life of its users is the worst business decision a company can make. Users
should be told that the new system will make business easier but not solve all
their problems. They should be trained to understand the problems in
implementing the application. “Drive out fears by holding one-to-one
sessions. Define some short-term benefits. Offer incentives to people who make
effective use of the application. Try to understand the internal politics which
can make the whole exercise futile,” says Ballal. She suggests identifying
dedicated user champions who will drive hard and take the whole implementation
to its logical end.

The New Champions: A dedicated, full-time cross-functional
team that leads the process should be created. “Allocate responsibilities,
create teams and functional heads to get the project rolling. Commitment is the
key,” says Navision’s Yash Nagpal.

Assembling the appropriate team of internal and external
resources is of prime importance. “Begin by finding experienced individuals
across departments who have participated in design and implementation of many
different types of systems. Integrate and model the enterprise software to fit
your business processes,” says Arvind Pandey, Persistent Systems.

Once the team is assembled, extensive training programs need
to be conducted. “The key at such times will be the knowledge of what’s
possible, what’s really needed and the ability to question and negotiate hard,
all along driving the process towards the desired corporate goal,” says
Avijit Biswas of SAP.

The Big Picture: Analyze your business needs by looking at
the complete picture and identifying the right solution and partners for
achieving your goals. “Companies need to understand that in a very near
future, they will need to have the facility to extend their enterprise systems
to their customers, suppliers and business partners and in some way or the other
they will be using the Internet. It is imperative that they have a definite plan
and scope to for an open, scalable system architecture, which can be easily
extended and integrated with other systems,” says Parimal Chanchani,
director, Uberall Solutions India.

How will a shorter deployment cycle help?

The biggest advantage of an efficiently deployed enterprise application would
be a quick return on investment. Atul Takle of TCS says shorter deployment
cycles translate into cost benefits on various fronts. “The impact on
implementation, transition, support as well as operational costs (like inventory
savings) is evident. Apart from that, it facilitates acceptance of the system by
the users and a belief that it work,” he adds.

“For the management, it means lower cost of ownership, increased
productivity, lower support costs and faster time to market. For users, it is
all about mobility, simplicity and ease of use, and who doesn’t want
that,” questions Anil Menon of Citrix Systems India.

Wipro’s Rajat Mathur sums it up for us quite neatly–”Any change is
always best done when done quickly and effectively. Give no chance to the user
to change his mind!”

Manjiri Kalghatgi in New Delhi

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