ComputerWorld: How to Make Your ERP Roll-out Succeed

If you have been around ERP implementations for a while, you can be forgiven a sense of deja vu as you read this ComputerWeekly article, which says that training and change management “can be the difference between success and failure.”  Poor change management has been recognized as a leading element in project failure for at least a decade now, ever since the high-profile teething pains experienced by SAP and other vendors in the 1990s.  Many articles were written about the challenges faced by Hershey, Whirlpool, and other companies that struggled with their new systems because of primarily organizational challenges, and both ERP vendors and their implementation partners responded by improving their ability to prepare people for the changes a new system introduces. 

The real news then, isn’t that good change management is a critical part of making your multi-million dollar ERP investment.  It’s that ten years later, it remains such an impediment to ERP success:

Read more of this post

Advertisements

How Long to Develop An Hour of Training?

Estimation is one of the more challenging aspects of project management, and is central to project success.  Formally or informally, most project work is tracked and evaluated against the expectations set up front for cost and time required.  Inaccurate estimates can have serious consequences for an organization, the project team—and the project manager.

The typical PM learns two things about estimation early in his or her career:

  1. It’s a bad idea to offer estimates before you have enough information to properly scope the project, because once people hear numbers coming out of your mouth, they will remember them forever.
  2. People will insist you do it anyway.

Good practice says that estimates, especially early ones, should be given as a range, with the width of the range set by the uncertainty of the estimate.  Even then, you still need a starting point.  Enter the rule of thumb.  For those times when you need a ballpark figure to gauge the size of a training project, many managers and organizations have history doing similar work they can draw upon to get started. 

But what if you are just getting started as a training manager, or have never developed a particular type of training before?  What if you want to gauge your personal experience against industry norms?  Back in 2003, Karl Kapp conducted a survey of learning professionals, and wrote an article that compiled estimates for developing of an hour of training using various techniques.  Kapp and Robyn Defelice have recently updated the original article with findings from a new survey.  The initial response pool isn’t huge (47 participants), so the results should probably be used cautiously, but it’s some of the best public data I’ve seen, and the new article covers a broader range of development approaches.  The authors note that estimate duration for several training types of development have increased since the 2003 survey, and suggests that issues with scope and change management—in both the project management and organizational sense—may be responsible. 

It’s also worth noting that the authors are continuing to collect estimates, so if you’d like to contribute to the study, follow the link to the article above and scroll down, or visit the survey directly here.

Get the Failure Over With

Why wait for your project to actually fail when you can imagine it did up-front?  Simon Moore at Strategic Project Portfolio Management writes about the use of a “premortem” as a risk management tool.  The supporting research found their use can increase the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%:

…[P]ost-mortems are, by definition, only successful correcting mistakes after they happen. …Experience may be the best teacher, but that can also prove expensive. Pre-mortems offer a different solution, correcting problems in advance, and eliminating the risk in the first place.

A pre-mortem involves getting project stakeholders and participants into a room before a project starts, making the rather bleak assumption that the project was not successful and then determining the cause. By assuming that the project has already failed, it makes it much easier for everyone in the room to be creative in pointing to potential problems and shortcomings.

I think it’s fascinating that a simple and completely notional change in mental perspective can have such a profound impact on the effectiveness of surfacing risks early.  Moore links to this Harvard Business Review article in which Gary Klein introduced the term “premortem”; it goes into more detail on the research behind the idea.

Kevin Siegel’s Adobe Captivate 5 Sneak Peek

Kevin Siegel was at last week’s Adobe Learning Summit, and shares details about the forthcoming Adobe Captivate 5 in this sneak peek.  Among other things, it sounds like Adobe has done significant work to make Captivate’s user interface more like those of their other design products.

How The Brain Learns To See

Conventional wisdom has it that the human brain is unable to learn to see after age 5 or 6, diminishing hope for the restoration of sight to those blinded at an early age.  However, new research published in the Journal of Psychological Science suggests the conventional wisdom may be incorrect:

This work builds on a 2007 study in which Sinha and graduate student Yuri Ostrovsky showed that a woman who had had her sight restored at age 12 had nearly normal visual processing abilities. These findings were significant since they challenged the widely held notion of a "critical age" for acquiring vision.

However, because they came across the woman 20 years after her sight was restored, the researchers had no chance to study how her brain first learned to process visual input. The new work focuses on three adolescent and young adult patients in India, and follows them from the time of treatment to several months afterward. It suggests that "not only is recovery possible, but also provides insights into the mechanism by which such recovery comes about," says Sinha.

…[The] results suggest that movement patterns in the world provide some of the most salient clues about its constituent objects. The brain is programmed to use similarity of dynamics to infer which regions constitute objects, says Sinha. The significance of motion may go even further, the team believes. It may serve to "bootstrap" the learning of rules and heuristics by which the brain comes to be able to parse static images.

…In addition to understanding how the human visual system works, the findings could help researchers build robots with visual systems capable of autonomously discovering objects in their environment.

"If we could understand how the brain learns to see, we can better understand how to train a computer to do it," says Ostrovsky.

Fascinating stuff, especially the possible role of motion in the learning process—which makes a lot of sense to me, given what we already know about the role of novelty in learning and perception.  This is also the latest of many things I’ve read in the last few years that the brain may exhibit greater plasticity later in life than was once assumed.

Observe, Interpret, and Intervene

How to make decisions outside of your core competencies in BusinessWeek.  “When faced with a new challenge, forget about acting fast. Instead start a three-step process to formulate the best solution.”  As an NT, I love this idea, of course.  (Via Lifehacker.)

10 Online Learning Tools for Students

A nice list at makeuseof.com (via Guy Kawasaki on Twitter).