The 7 things the C-suite has to get right: common issues that cause enterprise-level projects to fail

October 29, 2019

The online ticketing system for a major airline goes down―and the business almost crashes with it.

The software that issues government tax notices calculates inaccurate information―and trust in the civil service and in elected officials is diminished.

The internet-supported infrastructure for an energy utility takes production offline―inconveniencing customers and depleting revenue stores.

Initiatives to transform and modernize enterprise-level organizations often focus on innovating core service delivery―the impacts of failures are almost inestimable. They include all from cost overruns to lost opportunities.

The failures of multiyear, multi-million-dollar projects are reported in the business news almost daily. Deft management of complex, large-scale transformation projects can make or break an organization.

Unique in Canada, BDO's Independent Project Review service offers unbiased, arm's-length reviews that support the success of enterprise-level transformation projects by helping to prevent expensive, high-profile failures.

From business design to system implementation, development to deployment, our Independent Project Review partners can consider the 'health' of your project―at any stage or at several over the course of months or years. They can provide pivotal insights informed by a proven methodology and more than 60 successful engagements.

While each transformation project is singular, there are common issues our partners have identified over close to a decade of practice.

There are seven things the C-suite has to get right to avoid failure.

1. Leadership

Projects often rely on the charisma and capability of leaders. Leaders in one department or organization may be unable to lead in another. Culture is a critical factor.

2. Change management

Often the problem with the project is less with the technology itself and more about transforming the organization to take advantage of that technology.

3. Stakeholders

Unique projects require unique approaches―especially those interdepartmental or multi-organizational. But, the lack of a single point of accountability for engagement can be a definitive issue.

4. Risk

Who is defining risk-tolerance levels? Are they collecting information and evaluating risks systemically? Are they focused only on costs and schedule rather than all project delivery risks, a common issue?

5. Costs

The costs of a multi-year, multimillion-dollar, multi-organizational project are often not accurately reported―sometimes, because there is a lack of trust, within an enterprise or between partner organizations.

6. (Dis)benefits

Benefits outlined early in a project, when the business case is built, aren't always achieved―often because the scope of the project shifted between system design and system deployment. The disbenefits that can emerge during mission-critical projects can also be substantial.

7. Accountability

The project team often delivers to the business, and leaves it up to the business to derive the benefits of the innovation initiative―a transition that is not well-handled. To ensure benefits, a return on investment, it's important to continue to track the success of the project (using established metrics) and to hold the business accountable.

BDO Independent Review can help you to make your transformation project successful. Call us.

David Prime
Partner, BDO Consulting—Risk
Advisory Services
Harry Lake
Partner, BDO Consulting—Strategy
& Operations