Project management optimisation through the application of learning to consecutive ERP implementations.
Despite advances in technology, software and planning tools that are available to project managers, information systems (IS) projects continue to fail. Storm (2005, pg 1) has suggested that management issues are a central theme in these failures, recommending more thorough training for project managers and improved management overall. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations, arguably the most complex of IS projects, are particularly costly, high risk endeavors (Davenport, 1998, pg 7). When multiple locations are involved, the projects are even more challenging (Boudreau and Robey, 1999, pg 294; Markus et al, 2000, pg 46). This remains true even when a company has completed the strategic planning, the software configuration and the required infrastructural support, as experience shows companies may still face considerable complexity in getting from the capability to the reality. Due to a configuration knowledge barrier (Robey et al, 2002, pg 40), extensive use is often made of external consultants whose services add considerably to project cost (Haines and Goodhue, 2003, pg 24). By internalising and realising the benefits of a learning process within the business, implementation teams will become more self-reliant as their experience grows, increasing the possibility of success in subsequent implementations (Chang, 2004, pg 7). The challenge is how to achieve this learning effectively and efficiently (Esteves et al, 2002, pg 3). This dissertation proposes that an action learning approach may hold the key to reducing the variability of success in successive projects. This research has benefit for all practitioners, and particularly Project and Programme Managers working in Information System projects. It shows how incorporating an action learning approach to projects results in savings through doing things cheaper, quicker and better. It further proposes a practical, workable methodology for ensuring how action learning should take place as part of standard project methodologies.