A paper originally presented to the PMSA Global Knowledge Conference,
Monday May 10, 2004,
Midrand, South Africa.
Published here January 2005.

Introduction | The Project | Project Management Processes | Progress
Things Start to Go Wrong | Workshop Outcome | Next Steps | What Went Wrong?
The Purchase Process and Buyer's Remorse | Suggestions to Avoid Similar Situations
Commentary | Issues for Discussion


Phase 1 Project initiation

As shown in Figure 1, the project was divided into phases commencing with "project initiation". The project was standard and the outcome seemed to be predictable. The Client had been using the system for about four years and was satisfied with it both in terms of functionality as well as being able to handle the volumes. The software had been originally developed in the early nineties and it was now time for a major upgrade.

The first step was to give presentations to key Client decision makers to advise them what benefits would result from the upgrade. The high-level scope was approved, the delivery date was established and, as noted earlier, it was agreed that it would be a fixed-price project. The Project Organizational structure is shown in Figure 2. This was standard in that there was a Project Steering Committee that met on an ad hoc basis and a Project Management Committee that met weekly.

Figure 2: Project organizational structure
Figure 2: Project organizational structure

The User Technical Consultant was the only person allowed to sign off the specifications. This person did not share these business specifications with any of the users, which kept the users "away from the new system". The reason given was that this consultant had an excellent knowledge of both the system as well as the business application. The users were all "extremely busy" and it was therefore more effective to have one contact person. This made the project much easier to manage since the problem of trying to get a group of busy people into a room to sign something off was avoided. The project then moved into the development phase.

Phase 2 Project Development Milestones

There were twelve milestones associated with various packages of development that were signed off during the development phase. The purpose of this was to enable the Client to understand exactly what was being done and to give his approval. It was sometimes aniterative process but an acceptable solution (to both sides) was always achieved. In an email seven months into the project, the Client Managing Director (MD) assured all parties that everything was on track. See Figure 3 for an extract from the email that was sent just over two months before the end of the development phase (in May).

"We have made personnel available for testing whenever the SP has requested them, and a number of these sessions has taken place already. We still need to provide the SP with detailed specifications ... None of this has impacted on the project thus far, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the SP is not prevented from meeting their commitments. In closing, I must mention that I personally believe we have an excellent working relationship with the SP project team."

Figure 3: Client MD Email

Thus far it seemed that everything was going well, with over 80% of the project completed. But then the situation started to go change.

Project Management Processes   Project Management Processes

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