Regardless of the industry, area of expertise, or department there are key steps in managing a project. While the list below isn't meant to cover all steps required for project management, it does highlight key points every project and implementation should include that will help in making it successful.
Leadership and Teamwork
Two components required for project and implementation success are leadership and teamwork.
When managing a project that impacts your organization, provide direction and guidance to your team and others throughout the project.
If other departments are involved build synergy and excitement. Outline the benefits of project success.
If success will lead to working in a more efficient manner and reducing overhead make this known well in advance.
Change in any industry is difficult. Most interpret change as unnecessary and a conduit to additional work.
Why is change needed?
Make sure this question is clearly answered and list how it will benefit your organization.
If a strategic approach is not taken the change aspect of an implementation could result in its failure. Below are the key elements required to address the fear of change and lead projects to success.
Define a clear project plan with your team and include anyone outside your department that will be part of the implementation. This plan must include project goals, requirements, timing, testing, training and resources needed from other departments.
Provide as much notice as possible when involving other departments. Effective collaboration is a must.
Highlight benefits of the implementation with your team, get them excited about being a part of the implementation.
Acceptance and Support
Leadership Support – You must have acceptance and buy-in from leadership for any project to be successful. If leadership does not believe in what you are doing risk is added to project success.
If the scope of your project includes other departments your leadership team is a part of the project. Help them feel involved in knowing the great things they will see and how it will affect their areas of responsibility.
During the planning phase of your implementation send project detail in an email then follow-up by meeting directly. Address questions face-to-face and make sure you have acceptance.
Communication – This is one of the most important pieces for a project’s success. Communicate what will be implemented, the benefits that will come from the implementation and gain acceptance from your users.
Lead in getting people excited about the project and upcoming changes. Be open with your users about the implementation. Detail any changes they experience in a positive light.
Explain why change is necessary and the benefits your organization will see.
Provide dates so people know when change is coming and stick to those dates.
If training will be provided include this in communications so users know they will have a clear understanding of how new processes and systems work.
Timing – This is critical for project support. You don’t want to communicate too early or late in any implementation.
Depending on the size of the implementation, your team should begin sending communications 1 - 2 months before change is seen. If sent too early the excitement built from your team’s communications will slowly decrease.
If sent too late support will become difficult. Excitement about change needs to be built with communications being sent shortly before change is seen. After the first communication is sent, continue sending them until the project moves into production and if changes are made post go-live communicate those changes.
Be Open to Feedback – In an implementation that involves bringing people together from multiple areas of expertise and departments, as a project manager you will receive feedback.
Be open to this feedback and encourage your team to be open. Egos can be team killers and discourage participation. Listen to feedback and if it conflicts with something you or a senior member outlined review it to determine if the feedback brings value.
A team that sees leadership open to feedback builds strength for the team and project.
Testing – First impressions are lasting impressions. Without proper testing the excitement and momentum built could be instantly lost with a bad go-live experience.
Define a pilot group for testing. If the implementation will impact your entire organization include people from multiple departments in your pilot team for thorough testing.
With proper leadership support assembling a good pilot team will not be a problem.
Support Documentation - Have instructions for using any new systems and processes clearly documented and easily accessible.
The location of these instructions should be included in your team’s communications. Have the pilot team use this documentation to ensure it’s accurate. Every page of your support documentation should be tested and reviewed.
Update any content that could create confusion. Clear and accurate documentation will reduce the workload of your support team when going live.
SME (Subject Matter Experts) – Depending on the size of your implementation subject matter experts in other departments may be needed.
Identify these individuals during the test phase as they will assist with training, go-live and post go-live support.
Having a SME in departments impacted most by change is extremely helpful as it gives those users a support contact that is familiar with processes they work with and how the implementation affects those processes.
Training – Once testing is complete, clear documentation is written and SMEs are identified, put a schedule in place for training.
Go-Live – Two types of go-live methods commonly used are phased and enterprise-wide. Regardless of the approach make sure documentation is in place, your support team is ready and new systems are in an optimal state.
Going live in phases is preferred as it allows your team to gauge project success and remedy issues before being fully deployed.
If deployed to a single office or department and the go-live experience is good, this gives you the green light to move forward. This also gives that great first impression we were looking for and builds excitement. People will actually be asking for change as word is spread about the incredible experience.
Having users ask for change after an implementation is a great feeling and a sign of project success.
If issues are experienced in a phased approach it allows your team to get in front of problems and makes changes quickly to eliminate them as you move forward. Even if issues are identified, first impressions can still be good if the support team responds quickly.
In an enterprise-wide approach your team is all in. Be prepared by having your support team, SMEs, support documentation and systems ready. Fast response and prioritizing are required to stay in front of small issues that have the potential to grow into larger problems.
When done correctly, either approach will be successful when you take the time to work through all steps mentioned. A successful implementation not only brings positive change but also strengthens bonds with your team and other departments.