Magic is in the Details: Execute your Next System Implementation like a Romantic Dinner Date

A poorly planned system implementation frequently results in conflicting expectations, unsatisfactory results, and an ever changing timeline due to ignoring the details. If you approach a system implementation like you would a dinner date, you will find you are better prepared and able to meet (and hopefully even exceed) stakeholders’ expectations.

Dinner Date:  Key Steps

2015.06.23 OE Blog - Dinner Date Steps

Dinner Date:  Case Study – Failure

Christine planned to cook an amazing lasagna dinner as a second date with Tony.   She went shopping at the grocery store and picked up everything she needed.  The night of the date, she assembled the lasagna, put it in the oven, and had it baked and ready for when Tony was expected to arrive.

Tony arrives with a bottle of wine and flowers and politely asks “What’s for dinner?”

“Lasagna” Christine responds.  Tony sighs and explains “I have a gluten allergy, and pasta has gluten.”  Christine gasps and realizes this may impact any chance of future dates with Tony.

What happened?  Similar to some failed system implementations, Christine forgot to talk with stakeholders (“Tony”) about the project goals & considerations (“gluten allergy”).  Had there been a project kickoff meeting with the project stakeholders (“asking Tony if he had any allergies and not just assuming he did not”), these misaligned expectations and the unfavorable outcome could have been avoided.

Note: this story is entirely fictitious. 

Dinner Date:  Case Study – Success

Recently I went on a second date with a girl and I offered to cook dinner for her at my apartment.   I ambitiously decided to cook a Mediterranean meal; she agreed to bring a bottle of wine and confirmed she did not have any allergies (“setting expectations”).

The menu consisted of all homemade items:

  • Jalapeno hot sauce
  • Cucumber dill yogurt sauce
  • Couscous side dish
  • Stir fry veggies
  • Hummus
  • Falafel
  • Naan bread

I first looked at all my recipes, wrote down a grocery list, bought all the groceries a couple days ahead of time, and prepped and pre-made all the items I could (sauces, hummus, couscous, pre-chopped all veggies, assembled the falafel batch).

On the night of the date, I executed final preparations – prepped the Naan bread dough, began stir frying the veggies, rolled the falafel balls, and had everything setup and ready.  When my date walked in the door, all I had to do was put the falafel into the oven, fry up the Naan bread, and heat up the side items.

How’d I do it?  I planned meticulously and prepared as much as I possibly could to ensure my efforts during the date night were minimalized.

In case you were curious, here’s a picture of the final meal:

2015.06.23 OE Blog Meditteranean Meal (small pic)

Dinner Date:  Key Takeaways

  • Ensure you understand what your date will bring (maybe wine or dessert) and find out if they have any allergies
  • Plan out your menu ahead of time
  • Prepare as much as you can and test the food beforehand

System Implementation:  Key Steps

2015.06.23 OE Blog - System Implementation Steps

System Implementation:  Case Study – Failure

In 2005, nationwide garbage-disposal company, Waste Management, attempted to implement an SAP ERP system which ended in total failure due to a slew of reasons.

SAP pointed the finger at Waste Management for “failing to timely and accurately define its business requirements,” and not providing “sufficient, knowledgeable, decision-empowered users and managers” to work on the project1.  This is similar to how Christine failed to ensure that her requirements matched Tony’s requirements (“no gluten!”).

Waste Management pointed the finger at SAP for being misleading during the sales process and for promising an out-of-the-box ERP system with no customization to meet their business and operational needs, which it did not2.

What happened?  I’d say both SAP & Waste Management are at fault here.  Both sides likely did not spend enough time meeting with key business stakeholders, setting expectations, or planning for the project.

SAP Case Study References:  [1] CIO Article & [2] ZDNet Article

System Implementation:  Case Study – Success

In early 2015, West Monroe Partners successfully helped to manage a complex carve-out and merger integration (essentially two companies became one), combining its operations onto one ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform.

As part of this ERP integration, we helped our client:

  • Select an ERP platform
  • Establish standardized business processes
  • Convert data from multiple legacy systems to a standardized master data set
  • Rollout end-user training and Go-Live

First, we helped our client undergo a software selection process to identify the best-fit ERP platform.  To accomplish this, we defined a set of “Knock-Out” criteria for all the system requirements and graded several ERP platforms against these criteria until one ERP vendor was selected as the best fit.

After thoroughly planning and preparing for the implementation, the project kicked off.  The implementation first entailed identifying and documenting how our client would run their business using the new ERP platform (“system configurations and a functionality gap analysis”).  This included interactions and communication with our stakeholders.

Next, we helped prepare and undergo several iterations of testing to ensure all the system configurations were accurate and resolve any system or data issues that arose.  Lastly, we ensured they had a sound end-user training plan in place to develop training materials teach the end-users how to use the new ERP platform.

And voila – a successful Go-Live!

How’d we do it?  Like a skilled master chef at a three star Michelin restaurant, our team worked with key business stakeholders to define business requirements, developed a detailed project plan, and carefully planned and managed the multi-year project.

System Implementation:  Key Takeaways

  • Meet with business stakeholders first and foremost, including the Client / System Vendors / 3rd Party Contractors
  • Establish project expectations
  • Spend sufficient time planning the project
  • Put together a strong project management team to manage the project
  • Engage both business process owners and IT throughout the entire project
  • Execute several iterations of testing to resolve issues and validate system configurations
  • Develop an end-user training plan for how to create training materials and ultimately train end-users

In short, there are several activities required to implement a system successfully (or to execute a dinner date):

2015.06.23 OE Blog Key Activities

For additional system implementation tips and considerations, you can reference these resources:

Contact Information

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, please contact Alex Persha (


1,2 Case Study References:  [1] CIO Article & [2] ZDNet Article 

Phone: 312-602-4000
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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