ERP Project Risk Assessment

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Project will probably set our operational direction for the next two decades.  Due to the risks, complexity, and resource-intensive nature of this project, it is very important that we identify and follow a few simple philosophical principles in our implementation strategy.  Working with the administration, Deans and functional areas of the University, the following are the initial project values:

  • Ensure senior management sponsorship;
  • Utilize the ERP project to promote organizational change to become more agile and efficient in the use of our limited personnel resources;
  • The ERP project will be a business transformation project, not an IT project;
  • Escalate issues that impact the project and design mechanisms to make decisions quickly and decisively to minimize impact on the defined project timelines;
  • Create a communications plan that informs and educates internal constituencies about project scope, scheduling, and policy/process changes resulting from the implementation;
  • Code changes and system customizations will only be initiated in the case of specific legal requirements that cannot be met by the “vanilla” installation and implementation and/or University policy and procedural changes;
  • Hire a dedicated professional Project Management Officer to oversee and guide the implementation;
  • Identify and mitigate initial risks early in the project and develop processes to monitor those risks and actively manage risk throughout the project;

In addition to the above principles, the University has identified eleven initial risks and developed mitigation strategies to reduce their potential impact on the project.  Tactical plans for many of these risks have already been initiated and are currently in progress.  The initial risks and mitigation strategies are identified below:

Risk – Mitigation strategy

  1. Unplanned costs - Due to the importance of the project, the University has set-aside and dedicated self-generated and fee revenue to insure that funding is stable and sustainable throughout the life of the project. 
  2. Software will not be able to fully accommodate institutional policies, procedures, or functionality - An ERP Procurement team consisting of twenty-four individuals representing ALL major functional areas of the University has been established to a) insure that specific needs are identified; b) document and approve specific functional and technical requirements; c) design detailed demonstration scripts for vendors to answer specific functional and technical questions; and d) evaluate and choose vendor based on State approved procurement processes.
  3. Scope creep - The University has adopted the philosophical position that code changes and system customizations will only be initiated in the case of specific legal requirements that cannot be met by a “vanilla” installation and implementation and/or University policy and procedure changes.  This position has officially been recognized and adopted by the University Council and is supported and endorsed by ALL top level University administration.
  4. No clear data migration path and/or data quality of migrated data will fall short of expectation - The University has gathered and updated existing system documentation and meta-data necessary to insure a smooth data migration.  In addition, the University will work with the vendor to develop a new data standards document that will be shared with the University community.
  5. Inability to build consensus on business process realignment when processes cross functional/organizational boundaries - One of the key success factors for an ERP implementation is developing an effective change management plan.   Change management is the effective management of a business change such that executives, managers, and front line employees work in concert to successfully implement the needed process, technology, and/or organizational changes.  Effective change management centers around two important activities: 1) defining organization readiness; and 2) managing communications.  The University will hire a dedicated, experienced project management officer that will plan, organize, and integrate cross-functional information technology projects to deliver specific measured results to the University community.
  6. Decline in the quality of service of the existing systems during the implementation - Due to the necessity of changing hardware and software platforms, existing mainframe operations staff have been downsized resulting from efficiency gains, but, will continue to be primarily responsible for the legacy environment.  In addition, projects impacting legacy systems will be closely monitored and prioritized to minimize programming staff resources.  This resource realignment has already begun and is endorsed by internal departments and customers.
  7. False expectations of University stakeholders - As part of the overall change management plan, the University will develop a website specifically to inform University constituencies about the project.  This website will include (but not be limited to): implementation calendar and timelines, status reports, implementation partner trip reports, management team blogs, project definition/scope documents, implementation team documents, news and announcements, and frequently asked questions.
  8. Significant learning curve of new technology and system processes - One of the primary goals of this project is to redesign and reengineer the University’s business processes to better serve our constituents.  The University community (including the administration) recognizes the importance of this aspect of the project and its associated challenges.  In order to achieve the goal, a significant investment in rethinking process, procedure and protocol will be necessary.  The institution will empower internal functional staff and faculty working with industry experts to define best practice and integrate it into the new operational workflow.   
  9. System and network security issues - The University has hired an Information Technology Security Officer and is currently implementing an updated IPS/IDS/Firewall strategy in concert with updating cyber-security policies, procedures and standards.  In addition, cyber-security awareness and training is a primary responsibility of this new position.
  10. Inadequate training facilities - The University is currently renovating an existing computer laboratory to serve as the primary training center for the new ERP System.
  11. Inadequate network capacity - The University has initiated a multiyear project to upgrade the distribution core with a new layer three, routed, network that will increase backbone speeds up to 10GB.  This project also will improve network resiliency by adding redundant fiber routes and eliminating single points of network failure.