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The Secret to a Successful Project, Part 2: Closing the Complexity Gap by Understanding People, Process, and Technology

 

We’ve talked about the first key to a successful project: understanding your project’s unique complexity gap.

The next step focuses on analyzing the current maturity of your organization (using the EPM maturity model) against the goals of the project. The outcome is a gap analysis, which measures the effort required to close those gaps and achieve a successful outcome. The gap analysis is the starting point to minimizing risk and maximizing the benefits of the project.

For an EPM project, the gap analysis should thoroughly examine three main areas:

  • People – organizational set-up and change management
  • Process – aligning all stakeholders and improving process
  • Technology – data availability, infrastructure, and applications

Technology

Assessing your data model

Data and its availability are critical to the success of a project. Access to the right level and granularity of the necessary components of financial information should be the foundation of a project. Lack of the necessary data elements could require heavy investment in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is there sufficient detail in the ledger system to enable the types of anticipated features? For example, if a P&L by product line is necessary, then product should be in the GL ledger feed. Also, consider the relationship to the accounts. Is there product only available for revenue? Or expenses as well?
  • Is ledger detail available to support tax reporting on state use taxes and federal provisions?
  • Are intercompany trading partners identified at the right level to enable automation?
  • Do entity structure ownership relationships and ownership percentages enable minority interest and equity pick-up automation?
  • Does integration with fixed asset details enable the capture of activity for roll-forward schedule and cash flow statement automation?
  • Is there a common reporting account structure that supports internal and external reporting?
  • Are FP&A and account departments able to plan, forecast, and report actuals from one common chart of accounts?

Infrastructure and applications

Investment in the application software and the underlying server structure can be large. Understanding the interactions between applications and the required investment up front will pay dividends later:

  • Prepare for upgrades to servers and operating system software.
  • Enable access to data via table structures or flat files.
  • Prepare to set up multiple environments for development, testing/training, and production.
  • Consider application interoperability and compatibility with existing tools, like Microsoft Excel and web browsers.

Process

Process improvement is a major component of a successful project. Aligning the various user groups such as finance for forecasting and accounting for reporting is essential for success. Common definitions of financial metrics improve communication across the organization and allow for the analysis of data and information instead of just reporting.

Below are best practices in process improvement:

  • Avoid conflicting end user goals, such as the level of detail needed to accurately forecast versus the external needs of USGAAP reporting.
  • Establish common definitions of financial metrics like EBITDA among finance, operations, and accounting.
  • Align operational reporting on product profitability, cost center analysis, and accounting definitions as much as possible to provide one version of the truth.
  • Understand manual process steps as targets for automation to shorten reporting cycles.
  • Remove manual intervention for data preparation to streamline the process and enable better information quality.

People

Ultimately, people are at the center of a successful project. From the executive sponsors to the end users, it’s the people that will define success and reap the rewards. Remember from the complexity gap concept that one factor is a company’s willingness to adapt and embrace change.

Change management is often overlooked but is essential to success:

  • Gain committed executive sponsorship to foster an attitude from end users that the project is important for the company and will therefore take precedence to conflicting priorities. It will also promote resistance to change and help dispel the feeling that the “old way” is the only way.
  • Elect strong senior client personnel as Co-PMO with the implementation team to enable effective communication to executive sponsors. This will also enable the project team to get answers to tough questions on design and gain traction for change.
  • Nominate internal project resources that know the business and end user community. This helps with creating effective training materials and delivery as well as testing design components against known requirements.
  • Finally, make sure the internal project team is fully dedicated to the project. When project teams have to split time between the project and their regular jobs, it strains the team and limits project priorities. Limiting project time often leads to project delays.

Getting Started

Focusing on people, process, and technology ahead of a project’s start and following the guidelines in this blog post should help a project be successful. Download a sample gap analysis to see these best practices in action.

The final installment of this blog series will examine what to expect from an implementation partner and an analysis of past project successes.

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