This article was originally released on Tony Cronin's LinkedIn page here.
Who hasn’t worked on a project where dates have been missed? Slippage and changes to dates are a way of life - ‘things happen’ and if you don’t have enough contingency in your plan you can do one of three things – you can change the scope, you can throw resources at the problem, or you can move the deadline.
Changing the SAP Programme deadlines
Often, the path of least resistance will be to shift the deadlines.
The problem is that if we change deadlines time and time again, it becomes habitual and there will be other, more serious consequences that will have a more long-term and more damaging impact - a loss of confidence and a lack of credibility.
Dripping water will erode an entire mountain, without the mountain noticing. Date slippage is like dripping water on a programme and if it happens over and over, it will erode the credibility of any deadlines and the team’s confidence in them - often without the programme or its leadership team noticing.
To stop the water dripping, we need to ‘fix the leak’ by addressing root causes. If we can’t fix it immediately, we should take action to reduce the damage it is doing, reduce the time it is going to take to fix, and make sure that when it is fixed, it stays fixed.
To minimise the risk of date slippage, we should plan activities carefully and employ effective risk management. If we do this, it is more likely that we will have enough time to complete activities and we will be able to mitigate or treat risks before they materialise.
When things do happen, we need to guard against them being a slippery slope to a culture of changing dates and we should take certain actions;
- Assess the cause of the issue. Without knowing and understanding the cause, and assigning actions to address, there is every change that they could happen again. Again, this approach helps to ‘fix the leak’ and prevent reoccurrence.
- Look at what you can do to protect the schedule – work the weekend, reallocate resources, or make priority calls. Before we look at revising the dates, look at short term measures that you can employ to recover this time. There may be a cost involved but this can be weighed against the cost of extending the project and 'feeding' the standing army . This approach is akin to putting a bucket under the leak while it is fixed, minimising the damage.
- If changes to dates are required, make sure that they are managed under change control and that the appropriate scrutiny and challenge is provided.
Your SAP Programme is in real trouble...
If we get to the point where is become easier to delay an activity than it is to complete it, then we are in real trouble.
Delays to project activities, phases and especially go-lives should be formally documented with a full audit trail detailing the reasons for a delay, enough information to be assured that the revised date can be achieved, and any resulting actions, risks and dependencies complete with owners.
Your SAP Programme is likely to fail...
If a revised due date cannot be substantiated, it is either a guess, or an attempt to kick the problem down the road - either way it is likely to fail.
These changes have a lifecycle too and do not close the moment they are approved. Actions, risks and dependencies should flow into the ongoing governance processes and should be managed through to conclusion. If these are not managed, ‘the tap will still be leaking’ and we are likely to encounter further issues.
Dates matter! If they cease to be credible there is only one way to build confidence in them – you need to start hitting deadlines.
If you need help fixing the leaks in your SAP Programme, you can contact us here.