Projects on HOLD!

Posted on May 2016 By Mary Vidovich
Projects On Hold

​Have you noticed that in the last 3-4 years, many large scale SAP projects; Business Transformations, Re-Implementations, even Greenfield Implementations have been ‘put on hold’ or worse yet, have stopped completely? This, as you would all know, is a very costly exercise, both in money and time. It’s also a very disheartening experience when you are involved in a team embarking on a major change, only to see it come to a grinding halt!

This made me wonder why. Why is this happening so frequently? What’s going wrong? Who is to blame? So I thought I’d talk to someone who has made a career out of driving troubled projects to success.

As Resolutions Manager during his time at IBM, Ashley Saltzman steered more than 500 projects back on track over a 6 year period. The problems he encountered were various; system problems, service delivery issues, managing expectations to name a few. Ashley has recently been engaged by SAP Australia as their ‘Commercial Escalations Executive’ and as such, has a keen insight into the workings of a project and what makes a project succeed or fail.

When I met with Ashley, I expected to hear tales of outrageous and unnecessary spending, angry consultants coming head to head in a bloody war room battle, architects designing crazy solutions that ‘we all knew would never work’ or rogue Project Managers causing havoc by following their own agenda…

However this was not the case. When I asked Ashley the million dollar question, he said the following:

“If IT projects fail or are heading towards failure, it comes down to two things, communication and accountability.”

It made sense, though it seemed too simple.

We spoke of specific problems within a project team and no matter what the particular issue was, I couldn’t deny it; it always came back to communication and accountability. If there were problems with the project scope; the business neglected to convey the requirements effectively OR the System Integrator or internal IT project team neglected to ask the right questions. If project deadlines were not being met, there were problems communicating or problems with setting expectations from the outset.

With regards to accountability, Ashley raised an interesting point;

“People allow things to get worse”

  • They ignore problems that are ‘not part of their immediate role’ (It’s not my problem!)

  • They don’t follow up on emails that haven’t been responded to (Oh well, I did MY bit!)

  • Project Managers may not be business-focused and assume the Business Analysts ‘took care of the solution’


Communication between the Business and the Project team is vital in order to have a successful project. Every party needs to be aware of the end result and every party needs to convey their requirements in order to reach this result.

Accountability is paramount. Everybody knows their role in a project environment (and if they don’t, it’s due to lack of communication!) However, not everybody follows through with their commitments to ensure there is closure on each task.

So why is it just lately that we see more and more projects being put on hold? Is it that we are becoming less ‘hands-on’ and more reliant on electronic means of communication? Is it that we fear face to face communicating and prefer hiding behind our computer screens? Do we operate more effectively as individuals rather than successful teams who operate as one engine?

Who knows? I guess I’ll put that answer on hold for a while…

Click here to view Ashley’s Linkedin profile