When it comes to project sponsorship, nothing causes more unease than the prospect of a core platform replacement. Thankfully, with the right mindset and support, the pain can be minimised.

“I really hope I get to oversee the replacement of a new core technology platform soon,” said no business leader, ever.

And let’s face it, there’s a very good reason for this. Core platform projects are usually big, complex and fraught with risk. Project failure can have significant consequences for not only the project, but also the organisation.

As the sponsor of such a project, it goes without saying that you can’t really afford to get it wrong. Thankfully, most sponsors will only have responsibility for replacing a core platform a handful of times in their working lives… if they’re lucky.

The fact that these are relatively rare projects is scant comfort if you’re one of the unlucky souls who has a core platform project coming down your pipeline. But is there a way to minimise the anticipated pain?

The good news is yes, so read on.

First things first: What is a core platform?

When we talk about core platforms, we’re referring to those systems that store and analyse an organisation’s most critical data—including financial, employee, customer, and so on—and operate business-critical functions and processes.

Most companies have at least one or more of these five core platforms:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Human Capital Management (HCM)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Data warehouse

There are also some industry-specific and sometimes even organisation-specific core platforms. Essentially, in layman’s terms, you know it’s a core platform if an outage would cause considerable disruption to your day-to-day operations.

Every now and then, these platforms need to be assessed to see whether they are still fit-for-purpose or require updating and replacement.

Given the significance of most core platforms, this is typically a four-stage process that takes months, if not a year or longer: from working out what you need as mapped against the organisational strategy; to buying a new solution or upgrading an existing one; to implementation and delivery; and finally embedding the changes throughout the organisation.

Three principles for project sponsors

If you’re a project sponsor with a core platform project looming on your horizon, we offer three overarching principles to consider.

Principle 1: Don’t delay.

Is it any wonder that executive project sponsors might be very tempted to “kick the proverbial can down the road” when it comes to initiating a core platform replacement project? After all, if the system is not completely broken and may even potentially limp forward for a couple more years, wouldn’t it be easier to delay a replacement project in favour of more pressing priorities?

The very simple answer to this is no. If you, as an executive sponsor, suspect that a core system that falls under your wheelhouse needs to be replaced, then delaying the project is not going to be helpful. In fact, it’s highly likely it will cause even greater issues down the track. We’ll talk a little more about this, as well as other core platform project triggers, here.

Principle 2: Don’t take shortcuts.

If your core platform project can’t be avoided, then another temptation might be to take shortcuts as they present themselves. For example, perhaps your existing vendor has offered a like-for-like upgrade of the old system, avoiding the need for a broader market engagement.

While this approach might shave a little time and money off the upfront project investment, you’ll miss the opportunity to maximise the full potential of a core platform upgrade. It’s the kind of advantage that can only come from commencing your project with a back-to-basics needs assessment, which then informs your business case and approach to the market.

It could be that you need a version upgrade from your existing vendor – or it could be that you would be better off migrating to a completely new solution. The point is that you don’t know what you don’t know, until you’ve done the investigative groundwork.

Our general advice to executive sponsors who have a core platform project looming ahead is not to avoid it or minimise it. If you are prepared to lean into it, and bear a little of the immediate discomfort, this could be a project that is transformative for the organisation.  Do it once and do it right!

Principle 3: Don’t do it alone.

We’ve advocated leaning into your core platform project, and perhaps experiencing a little discomfort. Don’t let those words put you off – when you set yourself up with the right support, the discomfort can be minimised just as much as the opportunities (and your investment) can be maximised.

Without the required expertise, you may unknowingly make errors that compromise the project, as well as leaving you almost entirely in the hands of a vendor or systems integrator – neither of whom is focused entirely on your strategic outcomes and interests.

Having an independent guide operating on your side can be incredibly powerful during a core platform project. Imagine having an advocate working for you, who can help you:

  • articulate the required outcomes, in the context of your strategy
  • navigate any market engagement and get the best outcomes
  • help the vendor bring their best work to the table
  • manage implementation and adoption to maximise benefit realisation.

Having that lens can ensure that brave-smart conversations are having when challenges arise in projects like these.

A deeper dive into core platform projects

If you’re looking to find out more about managing the complexities of an upcoming core platform project in your organisation, it is worth exploring the most common triggers for such projects and how to recognise them within your organisation. From setting yourself up for success with the right strategic thinking to buying, implementing, and embedding, we can help you navigate the entire life cycle of core platform projects.

Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team or reach out to have a discussion today.

About Quay

Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...