Organizations must pay attention to 5 things for a successful software implementation
We’ve all been there. Despite our best efforts with project preparation and planning, risk identification and mitigation, consistent and focused communication, the project starts to deviate from the plan and becomes at risk. In some cases, the reasons can seem obvious and in others it’s much more difficult. Most of us are pretty familiar with the often talked about keys to a successful software implementation such as planning, prioritizing, and communicating—but a few other keys to success are often overlooked. Any sizable project needs these in place and well executed. In large organizations, missing these five keys can be devastating which can ultimately cause impacts to schedules, budget overruns, and project failure.
Senior Project Manager
Key 1: Engaged Project Sponsor
Someone had to obtain the budget to fund a project, so every project has a project sponsor, right? Yes, but not all projects have an engaged project sponsor. Being an engaged project sponsor means more than just providing funds and having a stake in the end result, it means being involved throughout the implementation. This person should make the time to attend project status meetings and understand the project status, risks, and issues. Equally important, the project sponsor has the ability and authority to escalate as needed on behalf of the project. This way, when the project needs help, the project sponsor has the knowledge, understanding, and authority to act.
Key 2: Product Owner
A product owner may not be as easy to identify as a project sponsor—especially if the project is introducing a new platform and processes—but they are instrumental to the success of a project. For one, a product owner should have an eye on the enterprise’s big picture and what the future holds for the new platform. Second, the product owner should have the authority to use that knowledge to make strategic decisions regarding the platform. And third, the project owner should have the resources and capabilities to support the platform post go-live. With all of this in place, the solution is set up for future success.
Key 3: Tasks Outside the Core Team’s Responsibilities
I’m sure some of you reading this have experienced a situation where the project plan and schedule are in place only to find out dependent tasks, to be done by resources that are external to the core team, require more time or effort to coordinate. For example, some tasks outside of the core team’s control can cause significant delays. Oftentimes tasks for infrastructure, networking, load balancer, database, and others are outside of the core team’s responsibilities. Getting a commitment or completion date from resources performing these tasks is even more difficult because you may need to submit a formal request for the work using their ticketing system. This is especially true in larger organizations where there are likely to be entirely different departments that service the entire organization and are prioritizing the requested work against other enterprise initiatives. Knowing and planning for this upfront allows for realistic expectation setting. Therefore, another key for success involves identifying tasks to be performed outside of the project team, assigning owners of those tasks, following the processes to get those tasks done, and understanding the escalation path if and when things go awry.
Key 4: Resource Allocation
Alright, the scope of work is signed and we are ready to schedule the kick-off, but we can’t get everyone together for three weeks?! Ding Ding…the warning bell should be ringing immediately. If you can’t get folks together to start the project, how likely is it you are going to get the resources working on project tasks at the planned allocation levels? This issue is felt across all areas of a project team from the technical resources supporting other applications and programs to the business members who must continue to do their daily tasks throughout a project. Realistically understanding and planning the project resource allocation can save you from having to repeatedly slip the schedule even if your budget isn’t impacted. However, budget isn’t completely void of this issue. Velocity slowdowns due to resource allocation are likely to have budget impacts as well.
Key 5: Executing the Plan—Your Methodology
At Zia, we use an iterative development methodology—it’s not true agile and it’s definitely not waterfall. In fact, the methodology we use varies slightly from project to project. You might wonder why that would be if we’ve doing ECM projects for years, but really the methodology used to execute the plan tends to vary because each project has different needs. For example, some projects can adopt continuous deployments to allow for code to be delivered to testers within a sprint. Other projects may require formal code deployments and the code for a cycle is held until all development for the cycle is complete. In the latter example, testing may lag from development by a full cycle. It’s important for the team to understand their particular needs, define the methodology based on those needs, set the cadence, and be consistent. However, if you find something just isn’t working, bring it up in a cycle retrospective, adjust the approach, and move on.
So, at the end of the day, if you can confirm you have the following in place then you’ll be well on your way to drive a successful software implementation for your organization.
- Project Sponsor
- Needs to be present and attentive
- Has the ability to escalate on behalf of the team
- Product Owner
- Has an understanding of where the enterprise intends to take the platform
- Has authority to make strategic decisions regarding the platform
- Has resources and capabilities to support the platform after go-live
- External Tasks
- Know the tasks to be executed outside of the project team
- Identify who’s responsible for the tasks
- Understand the processes involved for requesting the work
- Identify the escalation route in case escalation becomes necessary
- Resource Allocation
- Understand each team member’s responsibilities outside of the project
- Realistically estimate their velocity and plan based on this allocation
- Understand the specific project needs and limitations
- Adapt the chosen methodology to meet these needs and limitations
- When necessary, adjust the approach based on retrospective feedback