The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on Tuesday last week of a software implementation project being carried out by Bearing Point Australia for Canon that went horribly wrong.
The result was the former CEO being sentenced for one count of falsifying his former company’s books and one of misleading auditors. These offences occurred in 2004 and according to the AFR the evidence cited showed that “big technology projects are just as much about people and corporate politics as about computer code”.
Well hallelujah! Sometimes the obvious just needs to be stated. This is the exact reason why Synergistic Design was developed, to help decrease the high failure rate of technology centric projects by creating synergy between all the critical perspectives of a project. One barrister described these perspectives as “various underlying agendas and different interest groups” Well perhaps this is news to Bearing Point but they exist in every project. Ignore them at your peril. It appears this project failed on a number of fronts;
1. Business - Interference and politics were the order of the day from the head offices of both sides. Early finance estimates were locked in yet became impossible to meet.
2. Purpose - Canon wanted to change its business practices to take advantage of the technology capability. The brief kept expanding and the original work contracts and consulting estimates were now being disputed by both parties. Who was doing what for how much now became the focus of the contract.
3. Technology - The Oracle software involved was new. Yet it was decided to extend its use beyond the original ERP(enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) to include payroll and human resources.
4. People - As the AFR article states “Canon wanted big changes made to its business as well, which meant convincing people to change the way they worked.”
And there probably lies the biggest yet least attended variable in the mix of a successful technology implementation, the people. When a contract is focussed on the politics and finances, the work, and the capability the technology can provide, it is very easy to lose sight of the most critical success factor, the people. Building the organisational change in the from the outset and not creating a technology driven project will always lead to improved outcomes. New technology can possibly create more problems than it solves. It is poor business to compete on the price of technology alone while leaving your project vulnerable to risk on all other fronts.
Bearing Point wrote off AU$9.3M against the project. A figure that Synergistic Design could have lessened and perhaps even turned positive.