In addition to executive sponsorship, any major project needs to be closely aligned with bottom-line business goals. That means sitting down with all the departments that are affected and hammering out the project's objectives and KPIs, measuring the KPIs before the project to create a baseline, and conducting regular reviews to make sure the project is meeting its goals. It also means being willing to terminate failing projects with extreme prejudice.
"The project needs to start with a good business case," ESI's Ward says. "You have to lay out why you're doing it, what you expect out of it, and have your business sponsor sign off on it -- literally put a piece of paper in front of him or her describing the project and ask them to sign it. You tend to look at something a lot harder when you're asked to put your signature on it."
And after a big project is under way, promote the hell out of it, says AMR's Shepherd -- give away hats and T-shirts to employees, talk about the project in the press and at user conferences, make sure it gets talked about in the annual report.
"When you do that, the organization becomes emotionally committed to the success of the project," Shepherd says. "It can be a major embarrassment or even career threatening if it fails."
At press time, GAP Group was nearing a final decision about which ERP system to adopt. Either way, Stewart was confident his firm would see good results from the move. Even though the project had barely begun, it was already well on its way toward success.