Why Large-Scale System Deployments Fail – Understanding People & Data Part 2

Earlier in the summer we shared Part I of this blog post; focusing on the impact that people play in system deployments and specifically how the shift in organizational behavior cannot happen overnight.

As we discussed, over time, organizations have improved their implement processes; however, in the last decade the success rate for large-scale deployments has become stagnant. In 2018, the success rate of a technology implementation was at 36% and studies from that year also showed that 45% of projects were deemed challenged, while 19% of projected failed.

Having experience with numerous large-scale IT projects, I have seen how success and failure truly hinges on two key areas: People and Data.

Join me on this two-part blog series and we will dive further into impact that People and Data have on project success. Click here to access Part I; Really Understanding People and continue below to read more about the impact of flawed data on the quality of a project implementation.

Understanding Data – Trust Me, Not all Data is Good Data

When in college, I learned the acronym GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out. Meaning if you put garbage, or bad data, into the system, you will garbage out of the system. Unfortunately, in our current world GIGO has morphed into Garbage In, Gospel Out. Meaning people believe everything that comes out of their systems without rationally considering the practicality, value, or accuracy of that information.

To combat this new level of GIGO, it is extremely important to spend time cleaning old data that will be converted over to the new system. This can be an overwhelming task; especially if you have had your current system for some time. Over the years we tend to overlook data cleanup tasks for our systems, mostly due to a lack of time and because employees know the data flaws and make manual adjustments where needed “to make things work”.

Data clean up is an arduous tasks to say the least!

I recommend starting with the identification of data that is critical to your organization. This is the data that needs attention and clean up so that it is accurate in the new system. Is it customer address? Vendor information? Contracts? Account balances? Whatever key data element is important to your organization should be prioritized for cleaned up.

Next, look for ways to update the data as easily as possible. Work with your technology team to see if the data can be extracted into an excel or access file that can more easily be used to update information. Once edits completed, have the file uploaded to the new system with the most current data. If electronic options are not possible, the next best solution is to create reports in either hard or soft copy, that your SME’s can review and mark up as needed. Data entry of manual updates can be time consuming; bringing in temps or interns can be a solution for making updates, identified by the SME’s, into the system.

A key consideration if you are moving to a new accounting system… It is imperative that account reconciliations are completed up to the date of deployment. The reconciliation will allow for a quick validation that the account transactions were posted to the new system correctly or if some were dropped. FYI, transactions get dropped is not uncommon during system deployments. If your reconciliations are not done prior to the deployment, it will be difficult to know if you have any issues within your account balances.

Following data-cleanup, data-mapping is the next critical step for a system implementation. Having IT staff perform the mapping is common; however, individuals who use the data the most, your SMEs, should review outcomes of the data mapping to validate the information. This can be done by generating reports from the testing environments that the SMEs can then review for reasonableness or if available, reviewing on-line in a test system that has been updated with the data. When moving to a new system, there is not always a one for one match up on data files. It may require a many-to-one or one-to-many mapping. If the mapping does not meet the “snuff test” for your SMEs, there is still time for further questions and dialog with the new system technology representatives and the internal technology reps.

In the end, a “hands-off” approach from management can take its toll on any project and it can also can be a challenge when management takes the stance that technology representatives, internal and external, will take care of everything. Equally important is to push back on new system representatives that “everything will be fine, we have it all under control”. Do your research before implementation and ask for a list of organizations that have recently converted over to your new system that you can call for insights on their lessons learned. If the new system reps are hesitant to do this, you have just received confirmation that things might not go as smooth as they would like you to believe. If they do provide you a list, take the time to call each of the contacts and ask if they had to do it all over again, what would they do differently. Learn as much as you can and make provisions in your plan to avoid the complications your predecessors encountered.

Taking steps for addressing GIGO at the data clean up and data mapping stages will improve the likelihood that your deployment will be successful versus challenged.


Liz Meyers serves as a Senior Manager of Internal Audit within McConnell & Jones’ Risk Advisory Services Team. She is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and Certified ScrumMaster with more than more than 30 years of experience in internal audit, information technology, accounting, process reviews, assessments and advisory services. Her career accomplishments include more than a decade with the world’s largest food distributor where she served as a Senior IT Director and managed deployments of proprietary and third-party software to a global workforce. While with this fortune 100 company, Meyers also served as the Chief Audit Executive responsible an internal audit department that directed financial and operational audits throughout the corporation. Meyers background also includes serving as the Senior Internal Audit manager for Texas’ largest worker compensation insurance provider where she planned and directed Operational and IT audits using a risk-based model focused on the company’s strategic objectives. Connect with Liz on LinkedIn.