Software implementations – what really makes the difference?
The three essential ingredients of a successful project
I’ve got a few years under my belt in the software industry – 15 to be exact. And in those years, I’ve come across more sales and implementation approaches than I care to remember. All are unique in their own way, and all have a clever name to match. But really, how different are they when it comes down to it?
Same-same, but different
Most implementation projects follow a pre-defined process brought to the table by the software vendor or implementation partner. The phases typically go something like this: Initiation – Evaluation – Design – Implementation – Go Live - Continuous Improvement. All these phases have specific tasks and milestones that need to be delivered, tested and signed off. I’m sure it sounds familiar, even though the projects you’ve been involved in may have used different terminology.
So if everyone is doing much the same thing, why is it that some projects are run so much better than others?
To me, it boils down to three things that are mandatory, and if executed well, will put your project on course to success. These are Road Map, Authority and Communication.
Road Map – the project’s foundation
Every project should start with a road map to lay out the plan for the next three to five years. This is the foundation of the project and if you rush past it, then everything else will be built on a shaky foundation. Here it is critical to give thought to how the various stages are defined.
A well-defined road map is one where project stages and activities are broken down to a level of detail where it is crystal clear what needs to be delivered and why.
Also critical is that the scope is of a manageable level of complexity. This is important, because if you double the complexity, then you can count on quadrupling time and cost.
My advice is, keep it tight, and don’t try to do everything at once.
Take your time to discuss your goals and vision for the future before starting the project. I recommend three to five internal meetings before the Road Map Workshop and at least one prior to when the implementation partner starts working on the project. It is absolutely critical that all internal stakeholders attend these meetings.
Authority – the key to keeping the project moving
Your implementation partners will need daily contact with people from your organization with the authority to make decisions. There will always be decisions to be made which are not defined in the Road Map - decisions that need quick answers.
If management is busy with other priorities, and pushes each question to the next steering committee meeting, then the project will inevitably suffer delays and end up costing more money.
Communication – the way to get everyone on board…and keep them there
Some software projects will have a greater and broader impact on your business than others. When it comes to CPQ (Configure – Price – Quote), most parts of the company are touched, so it is important to keep everyone informed about the goals and business value of the project and to make sure their concerns are heard.
If your team is kept in the loop, and feels that their input is being considered, then the chances of user acceptance and a successful rollout will increase dramatically. Here I recommend a bi-weekly newsletter.
There are of course, many other factors that determine whether a project will end up delivering on its promise. But regardless of your circumstances, project type, or scope, these three ingredients are essential. I’ve seen it many times – and from both sides of the fence. For me it is simple: put these in place, and you have the cornerstones for a successful project.