When reading the trades or speaking to industry peers, we often hear about new technology and how it is meant to help drive efficiencies for end users. What we don’t often read about or hear much about is the somewhat frustrating and unpredictable experience many companies experience when implementing new technology within their organization.
There is, however, a set of best practices to follow to increase the probability for successful selection and implementation.
There Can Never Be Too Much Planning
While your goal may be to find the best-fit technology to enable your solution, don’t immediately assume that technology is the answer. While it likely is, changes in business processes can be very impactful and bring about desired changes in an extremely cost effective manner.
You shouldn’t overlook the possibility that your existing solution might be the right one, but your team hasn’t had proper training on either the processes or use of the existing tools. Too many corporate executives don’t understand technology and therefore make assumptions as to why another solution might be better. Avoid the trap of implementing a pre-selected tool. Evaluating and selecting the best tool for the job at hand is the only way to ensure success. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!
Be thorough in your evaluation. Companies looking for technology solutions or process improvements should prepare an RFI (Request for Information) and/or RFP (Request for Proposal). Within this documentation you should provide your agency or vendor with as many detailed requirements as possible so they can gather and present as much information as possible about the products offered to address the task at hand. And be sure to prepare your RFP evaluation criteria before you distribute the RFP; this way you will help eliminate bias from the evaluation process and more importantly set up those biding for successful delivery of the information you need to make an informed decision. Meet with all vendors in the space and ask questions about their technology roadmap, lifecycle planning for your platform, and support for the product. This will help ensure you select a platform with a long and useful life for your application.
One of the most important and often overlooked parts of the process is don’t forget your end user during the selection process. They will be using the tools to perform their job and will be a great source of information regarding requirements and usability. Ignore their input at your own peril!
Establish Your Team & Project Approach
Identifying and involving key stakeholders throughout the project is the key to its success. Not just the business area owners, but the true end users. And don’t forget operations management. Make the project initiatives “theirs” not “yours”.
Work diligently on defining requirements. The better and more detailed the requirements are defined, the higher the probability for success. Review, review again and then re-review and get buy-in from all stakeholders.
Break up your projects into meaningful but manageable phases.
Define and follow the best-fit design/development lifecycle methodology. Whether Agile or Waterfall works better for you, understand your options and stick with them. The same goes for utilizing a Project Management practice. Follow work break down structure, identify and sequence tasks and milestones observing predecessor/successor relationships. Baseline the project timeline, resources, deliverables and manage to the plan. Publish regular reports with detailed assessments of status, risks, mitigation strategies and timelines. Publish agendas prior to, and minutes after each team meeting, with action items and accountabilities. Use a common repository for all project documentation (SharePoint, Basecamp, etc.)
Get Ahead and Manage Change
During the project Definition Phase (often called the Discovery Phase), perform a readiness assessment. While the organization might have budget for the project, we often find the project stakeholders don’t understand the resource commitment that can lead to conflicts or delays. Know what you are getting into is of utmost importance to the project so make sure you have the time to dedicate before pushing the project forward.
Adopt an Organizational Change Management (OCM) methodology. The methodology should follow/map to the project methodology used by the project team. During the project Definition Phase, define a change team to work with the core project team in support of communicating change.
During the project Design or Development Phase, identify and/or create the appropriate communications vehicles, build training materials, obtain appropriate business area and legal approvals, develop & deliver training plans and define long term support strategy and transition requirements.
During the project Deployment Phase, deliver project communications, support strategy, deliver training, collect and analyze feedback and performance metrics as appropriate and transition the project from its initial deployment plan into long-term support.