Is your implementation on track?

Do you know if the costs and time estimates you have been given for your project are really accurate?

Senior executives of any organization that is going through a major system implementation worry whether the implementation project will cause huge problems when it goes live or whether the costs and time estimates are accurate. The project manager might be telling them all is well but project managers have been wrong on occasion. How do you look under the covers of a project to see what is really happening?


First, ask the project team to complete a confidential survey. Members should be asked to respond with Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral/Neither Agree or Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree to statements such as:

  • You have enough time to complete the work assigned to you in the time given.
  • You have a clear idea of what is expected of you.
  • The project will be on time.
  • The project will be on budget.
  • The project will satisfy the users.
  • Team morale is high.

You should also ask the team to rate any third-party consultants and to identify any major concerns.


The project schedule can also tell you a lot about the project. The project manager needs to ensure the schedule is realistic and takes the team’s vacations, other responsibilities and other tasks into account. Ask the project manager for different views of the project, including resource allocation -- i.e., how work is allocated to employees and whether they have been given too much or too little.


No one likes to find out too late that there are big problems. One way to reduce this risk is to break out the project into many milestones and track whether they are being met on time.. Another way is to compare the budgeted time for a task to the actual time taken to date plus the estimated time to complete based on input from the project team. For example, a task is budgeted to take 100 hours and 50 hours have already been spent (actual). The project manager estimates that it will take another 70 hours to complete the task. Therefore, the variance is 100 – (50+70) = -20 hours or -20%.


You can also look at the test plan and results. This is where the rubber hits the road before the project goes live. You will want statistics on all the test scenarios – how many were completed, passed, failed or postponed. The testing should include an end-to-end test that simulates what the system will do when you go live, and it needs to include everything – reports, integration and controls for all processes.


Another option is to have an independent organization evaluate the project based on best practices. Many of these are found in the Project Management Institute’s (PM) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). PMBOK identifies and describes the processes, tools and techniques needed to successfully complete a project. You could have someone evaluate whether the project follows PMBOK.


Although PMBOK is a good start, it does not include everything. For example, it is light on change management, which is vital for a project. Although there are many reasons for employees to embrace the change, some might have concerns about losing their jobs, about the amount of work needed to implement the project, or about losing power when a new system/process makes their knowledge less important. Organizations need to determine whether these or any other factors could lead to resistance and do something about them.


We hear about project failures but not so much about successes, unless someone was paid to write a positive article about a project. One good way of knowing whether a project is successful is to establish measurements of success at the very beginning. One example might be to reduce the time it takes to process an order from one day to one hour. Don’t break out the champagne as soon as you go live or find out you have completed the project on time and on budget. Celebrate when you achieve the goal metric.