The blame game.
Why, when things go wrong in an implementation, it’s on us. Not you.
If a solution implementation goes wrong, the blame game is an easy one to play. You can blame us. We can blame you. Or we can both blame the product. We’ve all seen some pretty significant witch hunts over the years when high profile projects have turned toxic.
In the past I’ve always taken the stance that when things go wrong there’s blame to be apportioned on both sides. But as I’ve gained more life and professional experience, I’ve changed my view.
Why? Well, I asked myself ‘is it necessarily the customers’ fault when things go wrong?’
And I have to say - no, it’s not. After all, we’re the experts. Our customers trust (and pay) us to help implement their solutions successfully. That’s our job – day in, day out. For our customers an implementation is usually a big one-off project, then they go back to their core business.
But for companies like ours, implementations are business-as-usual. Our bread and butter. So, we should be damned good at it and take an honest look at our own performance first, before starting any finger pointing.
I believe it’s our responsibility to give you the best possible guidance, advice, support and project management. And when things go wrong, as they sometimes do, it’s our job to get the implementation back on track. Like any technology partner, we need to own the process, keep it on track and take responsibility for the outcome.
That said, there are always exceptions.
Sometimes customers choose to completely ignore a proposed implementation approach, even though it’s been signed off. To reimagine the agreed solution halfway through (got to love those shifting goal posts), to insist that old processes are recreated rather than best-practices adopted, and to not invest in change management to enable strong user adoption of a new solution. And to not fully engage in the process.
In these cases, where we have no control, I think it’s fair to say that it genuinely is their ‘fault’ when it turns out badly (sorry, guys!).
The best that can be said in these circumstances is that we all learn from the experience.
We recently rescued a customer’s implementation project after they couldn’t find a way forward with their previous partner. The relationship had irrevocably broken down.
In all fairness, the old partner had only made a few modifications to the customer’s solution. That was the good news. However, the bad news was that most of them weren’t needed. And some of them were done the old way, via hard coding, instead of using the more modern configuration option which doesn’t impact the core product, just extends it. But we don’t expect customers to know this, that’s our job.
But dubious development practice aside, that project went off the rails for the most common reasons of all: Poor project communications and structure.
You cannot run a successful project without a structured approach and strong governance.
And that doesn’t just happen. Companies that don’t do projects are often dismissive of project management and all that it involves. It’s easy for them to say ‘What is project management? Why do I need it? I can’t see the value’. There’s no understanding on their part that you can’t implement a new solution without it.
An implementation is not business-as-usual for a customer; it’s an exceptional situation for them, and I think that’s the key. We stand by the old saying: Fail to plan, plan to fail. So, we work very hard to educate our customers as to the value of professional project management – and to not waver on our resolve when challenged about the cost it adds. If we back down, it could cost us all dearly.
Likewise, if a customer doesn’t understand and embrace their role in a project, listen to advice, or follow the agreed methodology, we’re endangering the project by not holding them to account. From our vantage point we’re always prepared to bend and flex but ignoring the warning signs that a customer thinks they can do an implementation better than we can is really dangerous.
This takes me back to my initial point.
We’ve been doing projects for a long time so it’s up to us to stand strong. We know from experience what signals a problem, and when we need to have a ‘state of the nation’ meeting to get things back on track.
Getting your project over the line and achieving your objectives is our job. And you have every right to expect that we can do it.
Amanda Lowe, F&O Practice Manager
Phone +64 9 379 0525