If you’re considering buying new enterprise software or upgrading your ERP system, you’ve probably heard some pretty horrifying statistics. A 2013 study by Panorama Consulting indicated that 54% of ERP projects had cost overruns, the average ERP project duration was over 16 months and 66% of respondents reported that they received less than 50% of the benefits they expected.

Ouch! What’s going on here? What about the 46% that completed their projects under budget in six months or less and saw a dramatic positive change in their businesses as a result of a successful ERP implementation? I think a large part of the problem is one of perception – good projects are not big news. People naturally gravitate towards the negative. Who cares about a relatively painless, quiet “go live” when there’s a $250 million Titanic in the headlines?

The reality is that for every IT project disaster there are thousands of enterprise software projects that succeed and pay off every year. What are they doing right that the others aren’t? Why do they get satisfaction and realize the benefits that others don’t? Why are we frightened by the doomsday predictions and the naysayers?

After 17+ years of doing enterprise software implementations and having my fair share of failures, I’m convinced that not only can software projects be done right, they can even be FUN! I’m not saying that they won’t be without pain – none are – but I am saying that there are some relatively simple rules to follow that can virtually guarantee success.

Think of it like this. Remember when you were a kid and you were really looking forward to your birthday? Remember which birthday parties were the most successful and the most fun? I remember the best ones had all of these elements:

1.   They followed the formula of others that had great parties. My mom wasn’t born a party planner, but she learned to be really good at it.

2.   Of course there had to be great toys. Not necessarily the most expensive but the kind everyone could play with.

3.   They were planned well in advance. No nasty surprises, like the entertainment not showing up on time. Or drunk clowns.

4.   There were activities so everyone could participate. No child should be left on the sidelines if they wanted to play. Some were pretty shy, so you had to draw them in.

5.   There was always something cool for the adults. After all, they were footing the bill.

When did we stop looking forward to birthday parties? Maybe it was when we turned 40, and we thought everything was downhill from here. Maybe it was when we became parents and planning a party was a hassle. Maybe it was when we thought we’d seen it all, that nothing could surprise and delight us anymore.

I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. This is the first in a series of posts with tips that I hope will set you up for a successful, rewarding project. And watch out – you might even have some fun along the way.

Learn from the experts. There are so many great sources of advice on how to do an IT project right. You just have to find them, listen and learn.

Choose the best toys. There are so many choices for software and consultants out there. How do you choose the ones that are the right “fit” for you?

Manage your project effectively. A well-planned project anticipates problems, sets milestones, provides deliverables (little gifts) and keeps the cost down.

Keep the children engaged. Learn how to set expectations, get them to take ownership, train them to use the new toys and keep the enthusiasm going.

Keep the adults happy. Learn how to convince them it’s time to change, demonstrate benefits, keep executive sponsorship strong, measure progress and give them some cool gadgets to play with.

I try to approach every project with an open mind and not listen to the naysayers. I’m a glass-half-full guy because I know it can work. The right ERP software, the right approach and the right team really can deliver a great result for you and your customers. You just have to learn how to throw a party!

Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral. If you are interested in guest blogging opportunities, click to read more about our submission guidelines.

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