Project management is one of the most significant competitive practices in business organizations. Business organizations frequently strive to position themselves strategically to adjust in technology to ensure they are in phase with technological changes. In achieving this, the support of the top management counts as one of the critical success factors. Their influence during; initiation, implementation, and project management is important to ensure success.
Top Management Support
The need for top management Support is one of the important aspects of project management. It is considered a “key success factor in project management and execution” (Kerzner, 2010, p.35). The Top management plays an exemplary role as the leader of change in the organization; they must develop tactical ideas and facilitate access to resources required for successful project execution. Kerzner (2010, p.43) also points out that top managers should play a key negotiation role in conflict resolution between stakeholders.
The Top management must in addition dedicate time critically to analyze the project in terms of cost and profitability to establish its appropriateness. This is Kerzner (2010, p.48) points out should be carried out through; “ plan reviews, making follow up on already begun work and influencing the management challenges linked to project development and implementation” (Kerzner, 2010, p.48).
The choice of planning and executing and managing projects depends on the continual support of project managers, the development team, and the top management must work together in decision-making processes (Frame, 2003, p.46). The choice of the methodology applied for effective execution of the project depends on the skills, experience, and decisions which the top management of an organization posses.
The top management often experiences constraints emanating from their corporate policies. In cases where the company policies stipulate guidelines that cannot be exercised and tailored to specific methodologies as desired by the management, they often resort to long-term options which are not easy to achieve (Frame, 2003, p.53). a good example is an IS project for pharmaceutical industries, which is more stringent on matters concerning documentation. Small startups which have limited resources are usually compelled to center their energy in developing the best solution right from the start. Frame (2003, p.56) notes that project managers should therefore plan diligently and give proper direction for the project to avoid risks right from the project commencement to its completion.
A good Project manager should be able; to plan, be part of decision making, poses appropriate skills for relationship management, and communicate effectively to the rest of the team. Frame (2003, p.65) further describes the process of “project tracking and reporting as the vital parts of the responsibilities of the project manager. It is important to note however that the project manager however good can only achieve the project goals if he is fully supported by the top management.
Project management training
It is a major asset for organizations to develop and invest in its developments i.e. its employees through project management training as pointed out by Shackelford (2004, 63). Employee training and development helps in empowering them with skills and knowledge to carry out the job tasks to their full potential. Training and development usually concentrate on teaching new skills and knowledge, developing their soft skills, which is very important in project management. Effective and well-planned project management training is a required framework that puts organizations in the right position to achieve their set goals.
Employee training and development process may be costly to an organization especially if professional consultants are to be involved, (Shackelford, 2004, 73) asserts that this budget is worth it as it is only with the right employees that an organization can be driven to achieve its goal of development. Shackelford (2004) gives a guideline on which the training and development process should be developed, these include; “resource planning, risk analysis strategies, sound management of resources framework and concrete management of schedules coupled with tracking.” A business organization stands to benefit if it lays down proper standards for strengthening its activities and objectives. As an asset, training ensures a balance is developed in the sense of management, planning, and understanding project requirements in detail (Shackelford, 2004, 78).
For purposes of easier administration, Levine (2002) advises on projects divided into two categories of planning and management to accrue the best results out of it. Through this division, an organization can effectively ensure less cost is incurred and the quality of the project is accrued from training and development. There are two major training and development options; external and internal training. To minimize the expenditures as noted by Levine (2002,p.54) organizations can develop internal strategies whereby the internal trainers composed of experienced project managers are used to train the staff in project management skills. This kind of in-house training ensures costs are kept down and flexibility in delivering training content, however, this kind of training might take a long for it to mature into tangible results.
Organizations also have the option of hiring the services of professionals registered to train and develop employees. Organizations that do not possess qualified internal trainers can take advantage of this service as stated by Levine (2002, p.63). Employees are often trained in people skills including; “customer care, team building, and communications skills as well as on technological skills” required to carry out the project (Schwalbe, 2006). For example, most are project management needs both people skills and technological know-how to facilitate success. This in other words might be a projection towards improving project management skills and facilitating monitoring and planning. Schwalbe (2006,67) illustrate that proper guidance to integration and training accelerates grasping project management.
Project training enhances the skills of risk identification and consequently “planning proper risk management measures” in advance (Lock, 2007, p.69). Training on risk management and contingency plan is encouraged because it introduces a rigorous Plan by trying to identify major risks that are linked to the project and institutes mechanisms that proactively help to achieve project goals and objectives. Training allows an organization and project team to “identify and analyze constraints thereby ranking actions which should be taken to minimize risks” before the project begins (Lock, 2007, p.76).
This practice ensures that the risk management plan is understood by the team i.e. the effects of the risks on the project and the necessary actions which should be established to alleviate them. Risk management and training help organizations to have the knowledge and be better placed to handle any un eventuality as pointed explained by Lock (2007,p.84). Proper planning in project risk documentation from the less vulnerable risk to major risks in project execution is important. Early risk identification can help organizations to mitigate them through monitoring and use of risk registries tools.
Streamlining organizations activities
Project management and training is vital process in an organization. This is because it helps to answer many simple questions and helps in streamlining organizations’ activities. The importance of training is to ensure that the project handlers acquire the right skills and understanding needed to execute the project. Project training is therefore not a waste of organization resources; it is worth the resources and the time accorded to it (Barkley 2007, p.56).
Project training in organizations helps in setting project timelines, which is an important step in ranking the goals and objectives of the project. Organizations that lack the framework of goals and objectives tend to lose focus of a logical flow of work. However, the time frame for project management training should be set aside bearing in mind that some goals have to be achieved short period (Barkley, 2007, p.76). Project management training helps organizations to strategically rank their goals at the same using the available time.
An organization that is involved in numerous projects going on concurrently benefit from project management training. Project management training helps organizations to determine the number of resources available and helps to balance these resources to the needs of the company. This is important because organizations can not finish the current project and move to the next project without having sufficient resources to enable adequate resources. The resources mentioned here can be in form of money, time, and manpower. Project management training helps in estimating the resources that are needed by the organization for the next segment of the project. By doing this, an organization can confidently assign a realistic budget allocation to enable smooth project execution (Barkley, 2007, p.79).
Project training allows an organization to learn how to produce quality documents which are vital for project reviews. Complex projects require accurate documentation at each stage to ensure accountability and follow-up. Proper training on documentation ensures that an organization can have a reliable record for reference during and even after project completion. Project management training, therefore, helps an organization to acquire the necessary skills in producing quality documentation that details project milestones.
Project management training helps an organization to have employees who can appreciate and work well with information systems. The use of project management tools such as the Gantt chart which helps to show progress and milestone of the project is easily learned through training. Project management training empowers the management team with in-depth skills on how to use technological project management tools for effective management (Lock, 2007, p.98). Many projects fail because of a lack of proper training on project management. Project management methodologies differ depending on the environment and complexity of the project. The changing times and project dynamics call for constant evolution in methodologies required to manage the projects.
Training exposes the project management team to a variety of management styles and approaches. A change in an organization can prove failure to a project. Methodology but when training is fully incorporated, modified, or reviewed to go with the change, then an organization can fully be equipped to handle any eventuality that it can befall it (Frame, 2003, p.103).
Front end planning
Project management training enables organizations to understand the value of front-end planning. If proper training and emphasis is based on creating the awareness of front-end project planning, then the organization has a better position to understand what the project needs and avid identification of what the project will need i.e. the system specifications, or come up with other valuable alternatives. When training is provided, the organization can analyze and consider the consistency and the quality and origin of documents that have been presented that can be a baseline for the committee managing the project to review. Proper training ensures that inconsistency and its symptoms are well understood and that other issues and problems are evaded i.e. unripe project management culture is avoided.
Project budget is also a critical area for an organization to be acquainted with. As some projects are complex and take much training, training on effective methods to allocate the correct estimate budget in an organization is a sure way of getting the project completed in time without much financial strain. This avoids the project baseline being established before a more substantial engineering framework is constructed. Budget estimates help in forecasting and quantifying the expected costs of the project.
Training for the British Library (2009) shows that the British national library UK library staff is a large beneficiary of effective project management training techniques. The Library “wanted to provide its project team a sound foundation on the principal and good ethics of project management.” This was to be based on “government proposed methodology”, this was to allow the library to have the knowledge suited to different types and sizes of projects (Training for the British Library, 2009). The British Library wanted training that would allow it to have maximum results from experience but with a typical approach, without being inhibited to a single-size methodology.
All adherent to the training was able to transform the British library in a big way. Practical methodologies and techniques tailored towards project management such as the product planning approach were able to be introduced within “ project management practicalities” and hence the library was able to achieve much out of the approach (Williams, 2008).
This section of the paper covers a report on the design of an information technology project for Baker Hughes Company, aimed at helping it achieve its strategic goals. The report entails; the objectives of the project, its scope, deliverables, critical success factors, benefits, execution plan, and the organizational behavior changes that the management will need to institute to achieve the set objectives.
About Baker Hughes
Baker Hughes is one of the leading companies in the oilfield industry and has been in operation for close to a hundred years now. The company is divided into eight divisions spread out in 90 countries and has employed about 36,000 people. Baker Hughes develops and provides specialized products and services for oil and gas wells. Its organizational structure brings on board professionals in the fields of finance, IT, manufacturing, marketing human resources, and business development.
An ERP Project for Baker Hughes
This report formulates an appropriate ERP system for Baker Hughes, aimed at streamlining its operation procedures towards its goals. It is recommended that the ERP system will be implemented through “a phased approach” (Vaman, 2007). This approach will ensure that everyone in the organization shares the vision and goal of the system. Implementation of an ERP system is an expensive venture, the processing system must yield the desired goals of reducing the operating costs.
The key objectives for this project will include; to develop a comprehensive ERP system that covers all departments in the company, eliminating the errors in the operation process that often result from manual handling of job tasks, developing a web-based solution that can be monitored of the site, and improving the general performance of all departments in the company through process automation. To achieve these objectives, it will be necessary to apply a phased approach in which every employee in the company is involved in the implementation process.
The ERP system will enable the different branches of Baker to be able to share information regarding “purchase orders and sales invoices” (Vaman, 2007). The system will run offsite to get rid of the costs of data translation on the side of the company. Data translation software is expensive and eliminating its cost from the company will allow it to save a lot of revenue in this venture. A data management service company will provide data translation services; this will translate to reduced costs in terms of labor and software (Williams, 2008).
Data management service companies normally act as “clearing houses” for transaction information belonging to the companies they provide these services (Vaman, 2007). Since they have a wider clientele they provide these services, they get economies of scale on the high cost of translation software and charge their clients affordably. Their technology enables both vendors and suppliers to share information through the data management service company’s communication practice. This technology will considerably reduce the company’s cost of sharing data.
Time spent in sending and receiving data between the vendors and suppliers will be much faster than before. This will reduce delays experienced in the supply chain that often results in losses.
The Scope and Benefits
The ERP system will cover the entire departments of the company ranging from human resources, manufacturing, production up to sales and marketing. The system first aims at reducing the company’s burden of data redundancy. Data redundancy slows down the operations process leading to delayed responses to the stakeholders’ demands. The system will fast-track and enhance the accuracy of data processing.
The system will be used to track and store the records of the customers to enhance the marketing efforts of the company. It is important to have a clear record of the customers to determine their buying behaviors and respond to them accurately. The system will also cater to the entire needs of the human resource department of the company. Functions of the human resource department include; recruitment, career development, reward and remuneration, and employee welfare. The ERP will provide an online recruitment platform that is cheaper and more convenient than the manual one.
Inventory management is another area that will be addressed by the ERP system. The system will allow the stakeholders in the supply chain of the company to be able to share information through the EDI system. This will allow convenient and on-time delivery of products and increase accuracy in delivery.
The ERP system will also cover the maintenance contracts; this helps the company to be able to monitor its maintenance contracts through an automated system rather than the ordinary manual approach. Baker Hughes has a wide range of machinery and property; this requires accurate tracking of maintenance to avoid risks of unexpected breakdowns.
There is also the aspect of management of the company’s vital information such as; financial information and the Baker Hughes standard operations procedure. This will safely be hosted on the ERP; the processing of this information will be automatic and accurate. Since Baker Hughes is actively involved in the manufacturing of a range of drilling devices, the ERP will entail a products model for all products manufactured by the company. The products model as outlined by Betz (2007) should include; “the bill of materials, product category, distribution, hierarchy, and servicing.”
The application will be web-based to allow access from anywhere. This will also enable sharing of information between suppliers and vendors; this will boost the flow of products between stakeholders as each will be accessible to the inventory. The company can also be able to reach out to customers in far places with ease through the web-based application. The system will further help in the decision-making process by generating accurate business reports. The ERP system aims at reducing the accounting job so that the company can focus more resources to enhance its sales and marketing team (Williams, 2008).
It is intended that the project will be useful to the stakeholders in turning around the performance of the company by cutting down on cost, reducing errors and time wastage due to manual processing. It will be important to involve them right from the initiation process to ensure a smooth shift from the previous system to the new system. Implementation will therefore focus on educating the users of the system to adequately understand its functioning. This approach will help reduce the resistance to change in the shifting process. The system will facilitate the shift to a comprehensively automated system in all departments of the company.
Critical Success Factors and behavior change
There are several horror stories about terrible ERP implementation failure. Many companies have had to sue ERP vendors for failed implantation. Betz (2007) points out Hershey’s as one company that was fiercely engaged in a lawsuit with the vendor over a failed ERP.” It is important to note however that the failure of an ERP system depends mainly on implementation and management process and not the ERP itself Betz (2007) suggests several success factors required in the implementation of an ERP system.
The first success factor needs an understanding of the company’s business processes and requirements. Once the requirements are established and the process understood, the focus should then be placed on achieving the business goals by selecting an appropriate ERP system. The business processes and requirements should then act as a guide to choosing a particular ERP. Many ERP systems fail because they are chosen on basis of their superior “name” in technology, yet they are not compatible with the business requirements and operations (Myerson, 2001).
The second success factor will be to establish the performance indicators and to set out realistic targets after implementation of the ERP. Many ERPs are initiated on over-ambitious profiles that often are not realized (Myerson, 2001). Usually, the management team is out to convince the board of directors to buy the idea with little assessment of its ability to profit the company.
The success of the ERP project depends on its proper management. It is important to have good managers supervise closely the project from initiation to the final implementation (Shields, 2001). It is worth noting at this point that the implementation of an ERP system is highly costly and therefore the company must be ready to spend according to the budget established. Attempts to reduce the budget here can only result in substandard applications that are not appropriate.
The top management must be fully involved in the implementation process and be ready to support it to achieve success. It will be important that the project receives support right from the company directors, the CEO, senior departmental heads and to force the influence down to the end-users (Shields, 2001). Without the support of the top managers, the project can not succeed.
The best execution plan should begin first by defining the business for which the ERP is being carried out. Here, the type of business for Baker Hughes will be studied to establish its needs and requirements. This will include; the company’s partners, customers, product line, and the type of data generated by the company (Nah, 2002). Once all the information regarding the business requirements and operation is collected and defined, the next step will be to establish a coherent system blueprint.
A coherent system blueprint helps to ensure that all the steps and items listed in the requirements and needs study are captured during execution. It acts as a reference document when implementing the system to avoid errors of omission and commission in the implementation process.
The next item in the logical implementation process is the package choice. The choice is made from the information collected from the needs and requirement selection process. The choice for the ERP system should fit the requirements and needs of the business and should be able to help the business to justify the investment with high returns.
Once the right ERP is chosen, the next step is to develop an appropriate model for the ERP. The process should be systematic and probably be developed on a departmental basis. The model should also entail interdepartmental communication and bring on board all other stakeholders such as; vendors, suppliers, and customers (Ray, 2004).
After process modeling is done, the next step focuses on confirmation of the system as well as training of the end-users of the system. At this point, the main work should be testing the accuracy of the processes, training the users to understand fully the functioning of the project and how they can use it to achieve the objectives of the company. Ray (2004) points out that the final step is to “go live” with the system and monitor its performance.
This paper has demonstrated the importance of the support of the top management team in ensuring the success of the project. The emphasis of project management should focus on training and development of the project management team to equip them with the skills and knowledge required to successfully carry out the project. The paper has also established that the failure of many ERP systems results from poor implantation processes rather than errors in the system itself. It is important to assess the needs of the organization to tailor the system to the needs and requirements of the business. It is also important to evaluate pursue the critical success factors required for the project to succeed.
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