October 21, 2019

Avoid Implementation Issues – The Big Four.

By Lee Bourke

Our organisation spends a lot of time assisting others to implement Document and Work Management solutions.  We have been doing this since 2007 and individually many of us have been doing this for a lot longer with other organisations.  We are still surprised at organisational avoidance of implementing change management processes for their teams.

Many years ago systems projects had a very strong technical leaning.  Remember using the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) to structure long projects to deliver positive organisational outcomes?  Projects these days happen a lot quicker (generalisation inserted – we would love your view).  This speed is underpinned by advances in technology as well as globalisation driving a world market.  We can now configure software to do a lot of things that we used to require software development projects to deliver.

What are the impacts of this faster delivery of organisational outcomes?  Here are The Big Four impacts we see;

1. Less structure

We do not see organisations using Project Managers (PM) and Project Management hygiene as frequently as they used to.  This provides less organisational structure which leads to generally poorer outcomes.  In our experience having a PM on a project virtually guarantees the project will not fail as well as ensuring the project will deliver at an acceptable time and cost (note the use of acceptable as opposed to budgeted, that could be a single blog in its own right).  As a minimum, organisations need to have a responsible executive so that there is a single point of escalation for the technical resources on the project.  We would love to see this trend away from formal PM reversed.

2. Less formal requirements

A significant trend we see is the reduced focus on formal requirements.  We often see projects being attempted with no agreed formal requirements.  The theory being that the tools can be adjusted so easily that once a solution is live it can be altered as needed.  Whilst this may be somewhat true, it does not deal with the various pre-conceived expectations of the stakeholders.

Stakeholders are quick to get frustrated and unsupportive of the project if their early expectations are not met.  One of the great things about a formal requirements document is the articulation of expectations before any delivery has happened.  If there is a gap in the expectations of the solutions delivery team and any of the stakeholders it is highlighted and dealt with long before the project is thrown seriously off track.

3. Lack of a formal change control process

Just having an initial set of requirements is not sufficient.  We see projects falter regularly because valid changes to the project are not managed with a controlled process.  The beauty of a change control process is the involvement of all stakeholders and management of their expectations throughout the delivery.  As with formal requirements, change controls are a vital commercial and legal instrument that can reduce your organisational risks.

4. People aren’t ready

With modern technology we can often implement a really complex solution to an organisational problem in a very small amount of time.  Whilst this is great and any technocrats will love the speed and outcome, it give technophobes very little time to adapt to a new work design.  We see this happen a lot and often those technophobes will start an internal marketing campaign against the project / changes (interestingly in our experience once the key issues of this group are addressed they can be turned into strong advocates).  In our experience the number one reason why projects struggle is the human change element.  Of course there is a direct link between this impact and the project management impact described above.  Less Project Management hygiene leads to less focus on the core change management principles built into that hygiene.  We would encourage anyone currently implementing or considering a technical change project to spend more time considering the human change elements.  If you do you will be rewarded for having done so.

Of course there are other factors that can lead to implementation issues – poor technology choice, poor partner choice, external factors, poor resourcing and inadequate skills to name a few. Despite these other risk factors we still see most troubled projects having one or more of The Big Four issues identified above as the root cause of the challenges.

In summary, we suggest that all solution implementation projects have a Project Manager, use a tight requirements recording and change control recording process as well as have a program of change management built into the core deliverables.  Implementing hygiene’s to account for The Big Four will seriously improve your chance of implementation success.

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