Friday, May 15, 2015

Project euthanasia

This is a true story. The company name has been changed.


Acme Corporation selected a new integrated general ledger and accounts payable package. Then they assigned a project manager to plan and manage the implementation.  

The project manager worked with the vendor and the Acme employees to plan the work. Once the sponsor approved the plan, the implementation began.

The situation

One of the responsibilities of the project manager is identifying, documenting, prioritizing, and tracking issues. In addition, the project manager has to find out what needs to be done to resolve each issue and ensure that it is cleared up within an appropriate period of time.

At Acme, there were a large number of issues to deal with during the first few months of the general ledger implementation.

Many issues were typical of any system implementation. In these cases, the project manager worked with the vendor and the users to tweak business processes that would facilitate use of the system.

However, several other issues were directly related to the capabilities of the product. The vendor’s consultant was thorough about investigating workarounds that would deal with the functionality issues.  However, several issues could not be resolved to the satisfaction of the client. The general ledger system that Acme had purchased could not support Acme’s business needs.

In addition, the team had discovered that the accounts payable and general ledger were not really an integrated package. Instead they had been designed and written by two different companies, then marketed by the general ledger software vendor under a single brand name with a standard import/export interface. This lack of integration was a big concern for the users.

Analysis and recommendation

What did the project manager do? She reviewed the outstanding functionality issues and assessed them in terms of the short term and long term impact on the company. The project manager recognized that some of the issues were so severe that they would restrict the growth plans of the company. For example, the company had already used up all of the profit and cost centre codes allowed in the general ledger.

The project manager met with the project implementation team and recommended cancellation of the project. As expected, this was a very difficult decision for the team, as they had already invested considerable effort and money in the project so far. They did not want it to appear that their project had failed.


The project team did conclude that cancellation was the appropriate action, and the recommendation was taken to the project sponsor, who agreed.

The project was cancelled. The Acme legal department, the vendor, and all affected users were notified of the cancellation.



Many projects that fail manage to stumble along to the end before being judged a failure. As this tale illustrated, the evidence of impending failure is usually available earlier in the project, and the decision can be made at lower cost.

This is an extremely tough decision to make because the vendor is determined to find a workaround to solve the problems, and the momentum of the project tends to make the project team want to continue along the planned path.

The product was so unsuitable to the company’s needs that the project would have been widely judged a failure anyway. So, the decision took place sooner rather than later.

Of course, doing a proper definition of needs and a software selection in the first place could have prevented the whole debacle.

When the project sponsor initiated a new project to replace the general ledger and accounts payable systems, the new project started with a detailed analysis of the company’s business requirements.

Copyright 2015 Debbie Gallagher