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Rescuing Troubled NetSuite Projects: Strategies for Successful Recovery

ERP projects have a high failure rate. Gartner places the number at around 75%; other sources cite 55-75%. The exact number is unclear because what businesses mean by failure is equally unclear. Some failures simply mean certain objectives (typically ones related to time) weren’t met, while failure in other projects means having to revise the project scope and try again. 

Few ERP projects result in absolute failure because there are numerous ways to salvage, rework, reframe, and—ultimately—rescue troubled NetSuite projects to bring them to completion. 

When your organization is looking at a jumbled NetSuite project, whether it’s a custom development, a new workflow, or a complete implementation, it can be frustrating and difficult to know how to unravel the mess. But it’s possible to recover your struggling project and get everything back on track.

In this guide to recovering your NetSuite project, we’ll start by exploring some common causes and effects of failing NetSuite projects, so you can start to recognize where things went awry. Then, we’ll give you a step-by-step approach to resolving the issues and giving your project a fresh start. Once you finish reading through the guide, take your coffee break, ignore the project for a couple of minutes, and then take the first step toward fixing it.

7 Reasons Why NetSuite Projects Go Off the Rails

NetSuite projects are complicated, and they come in a wide range of objectives, scopes, and difficulties. Any number of factors, from overly ambitious timelines to sudden budget cuts during a recession, can lead to troubles that snowball and leave your organization with a dysfunctional workflow or half-migrated data collection. Read through this list of common reasons for troubled projects, and identify which ones sound likely so you can start troubleshooting or give more details to a recovery consultant.

  1. Not enough planning: The planning phase wasn’t detailed enough. The project doesn’t truly address the objective, or the project plan skipped key steps.
  2. Not enough buy-in: One of the most important success elements is support from management. If team leaders and executives don’t buy into the project, then employee engagement will be low, resources will be sparse, and the project won’t build enough momentum. 
  3. Not enough resources: Going over budget is a real risk with ERP implementation, especially. The cost of implementation varies widely across the low and high six figures, and many SMBs struggle to properly forecast the costs or allocate the budget.
  4. Bad project management: ERP projects of any scale are complicated. Internal teams and third-party consultants will need to work together, typical work will be disrupted, and someone needs to stay in charge. Poor project management can cause a lot of miscellaneous failures.
  5. Scope creep or turbulent scope changes: Ideally, every NetSuite project starts with a comprehensive scope that identifies all the major steps, costs, and timeline considerations. But inexperienced professionals can underbid to win the contract or not uncover major project aspects in the discovery stage.
  6. Operational challenges: If your organization’s work processes and priorities are constantly in flux, ERP projects may be unable to keep up.
  7. Lack of data infrastructure or cleanup: This is a challenge for any organization, especially if you’re shifting from QuickBooks or spreadsheets and legacy data management. The foundation of any ERP implementation is a solid data architecture that accounts for data sharing, security, and automation. Without that largely invisible layer, the entire project can lead to errors popping up all across your system.

These problems may be readily apparent. Alternatively, as you dig into what went wrong, you may find one or more of these seven problems at the root of the project.

Related: How to Know It’s Time for Netsuite Recovery

The Biggest Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Failed NetSuite Projects

ERP disasters are precisely that: disasters. There are plenty of boogeyman stories that could chill anyone’s blood:

  • Mission’s avocado crisis: The ERP project was supposed to track avocados internationally, and everything went haywire, with a complete loss of visibility into the avocado numbers at every stage of the supply chain. The recovery cost $3.8 million for the ERP system alone, to say nothing of their emergency short-term fixes to the supply chain itself.
  • National Grid flipped the switch too early: This utility company tried to rush its way to the go-live date just days after Superstorm Sandy hit the shoreline. Thousands of business tasks were delayed, canceled, or errored out, and the losses far exceeded the resulting $75 million settlement from Wipro.

While your own NetSuite project may be smaller in scope, the consequences of errors may be no less devastating. Even worse, they aren’t always immediately obvious. One of the biggest categories of problems you might experience is operational issues, which can include invoices that don’t go, hourly employee shifts that don’t get properly recorded, and account records that simply disappear from reports. 

These operational issues might immediately come to light—such as none of your employees getting their direct deposits—or you may face a continuous drip of errors and undone work that can continue for years. 

Failed NetSuite projects don’t just disrupt automations and action items. These incidents can also make your data completely untrustworthy. Different interfaces will pull from different places and overwrite each other. Records, formulas, and fields will break. Formulas can error out because they can’t read different data types, or fields somewhere upstream generate unusable data formats. This may be even more insidious than work that simply doesn’t happen—it results in work that’s done incorrectly.

The Four-Step Strategy for Successfully Recovering Your NetSuite Project

Once you’ve recognized that it’s time to make a change to your NetSuite project, don’t just jump to starting over or scrapping the entire endeavor. Instead, it’s possible to salvage virtually any project and achieve some or all of the objectives you had in mind. This four-step process is the foundation for a successful recovery.

1. Assess Your Project Conditions As-Is

Pump the brakes, and take stock of your project and total ERP ecosystem as it is. How far off track is it? How much has it gone over budget? Is it directly impacting your business right now (i.e., it went live and broke), or is it still in the sandbox? These preliminary questions and several others can help you get a sense of how much damage has been done, how far it’s off track, and what needs to be done to correct it.

There are a couple of helpful actions you can take right now based on your initial assessment:

  • Pause the project: If you know it’s not ready for rollout, don’t roll it out. If people are working hard on highly manual fixes or working with bad data, stop work until you have a better approach ready.
  • Get a professional assessment: If you don’t know how to start figuring out what went wrong or the first step for fixing it, that’s okay. Call in a reputable consultant for a free project assessment.

2. Start Troubleshooting to Identify the Underlying Problems

Now, it’s time to dig a little deeper. If your project is still in the sandbox or inactive, this step is a little easier. You can start making experimental changes or testing different sequences to see how things are going wrong instead of just knowing that things are going wrong. If you can back up until you reach the previous milestone where everything was working, you might be able to restart from there. You might also uncover invisible gaps in your data architecture or gain more clarity into what scope changes will give you the greatest impact.

3. Create a Plan to Address Those Core Issues

With a deeper understanding of what went wrong, you, your team, or your consultant can create a new project plan. This process includes:

  • Determining if your current team or consultants have the expertise to handle the project, or if you need to look for other options
  • Reevaluating what the project does and does not need to accomplish (especially if budgetary constraints are a problem)
  • Considering alternative solutions for customizing or implementing your NetSuite iteration; this doesn’t mean you should give up on NetSuite or a custom workflow function—you may just need to brainstorm different pathways or methodologies
  • Staying patient, as it can feel like you’re stepping backward or adding delays

Your new plan may take you from the project’s current status to where it needs to be in your initial project, or it may branch off to become an entirely new project. For recovery projects, especially, more planning and detailed documentation is best. Get a detailed project scope, list of milestones, and cost breakdown. If possible, make sure your plan includes courses of action for future problems or delays so you don’t have to complete this process again.

4. Start the Recovery Project

Now, it’s time to turn everything back on. Whether you’re working with a new team or you’ve added additional support to the old one, you should have more clarity about the next steps and be able to measure progress. 

Related: From Crisis to Success: Navigating NetSuite Rescue Efforts

The Missing Component of Your Recovery Project: A NetSuite Recovery Expert

When you’re in the middle of a NetSuite disaster, one of the most important steps you can take is to bring fresh eyes to the project. A new consultant can evaluate your current system, your past system, and your initial plan to peel back the layers and find the fatal flaws. Along with this fresh perspective, they should bring expertise. Project recovery can be incredibly complex, and you want an expert from a service that has years of experience solving NetSuite development issues in your industry or in organizations like yours. This is useful because:

  • They’re already familiar with similar business operations, potentially shortening the timeline.
  • They may have encountered similar problems before and already know the right solution or the best pathways to finding those solutions.
  • The right development experts can determine whether standard NetSuite tools, additional modules, or custom work is the best fit. They won’t just jump immediately to a full customization, which is often unnecessarily expensive and slow.

By bringing in an experienced recovery consultant, you can avoid the guesswork of trying to troubleshoot the problems and develop the solutions yourself.

Get Recovery Underway With a Consultation From Limebox

NetSuite projects can go off the rails, but they don’t have to end in failure. At Limebox, we provide repair and recovery services for making custom developments, full-scale NetSuite implementations, and other projects turn into success stories. Our recovery services are methodical, detailed, and fueled by our years of experience creating smoothly running NetSuite systems for our clients. Reach out today to tell us what went wrong and to get a fresh perspective on the problem.


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