What's really behind a successful implementation? Technology, or people?
There's a lot of talk about what it takes to make your technology implementation a success. In truth, it's never just one thing, but a mix of factors including solutions, outcomes, budgets, processes, timing, partnerships, and methodologies. And people.
I am a chemical engineer by profession with a background in the design and operation of major manufacturing plants. While I can talk about the costs and technical aspects of an ERP project implementation, I'm a firm believer that the people are the most important project asset, irrespective of the technology selected. They are the 'make or break' factor.
But getting the best out of your people and team doesn't just happen. It requires careful consideration and strategic planning.
Our customers rightly expect that our implementation team will be made up of our best people - our 'A-team'. However, in an ideal world, the same degree of rigorous scrutiny that's applied to the certifications and experience of our consultants should also apply to your own project team.
A successful implementation requires that everyone - on both sides - is well equipped to undertake the project demands. After all, if one side fails, we all fail.
If you want a successful project outcome and a robust business solution, then enrol the help of your internal superstars. That way, we collectively end up with an A++ team.
If you haven't been through an implementation project, then it's easy to be caught out. I often see project leads underestimating the commitment required from their team for the duration of the implementation. Setting the expectation that team members only need to allow for 15% of every other working day, or a couple of sessions a week, to make a valid and valuable contribution, just isn't going to cut it.
It's important to be pragmatic and realistic about the skills and time needed to be successful. The input of your internal subject matter experts and users is essential to ensure that the solution achieves your business outcomes. If you don't know how much time to budget on, consult your partner!
What happens when one of your team members (or one of ours) isn't pulling their weight? And is one person's lack of performance of any real consequence? The answer is an unequivocal 'yes'.
A single under-performing team member can have a significant impact on the deadline, the cost, and the quality of the end solution. As we are prescriptive around task management, dates, and delivery, anyone not performing to expectation sticks out like a sore thumb. We always have an escalation process within the project, so if it's someone on either team, we quickly manage the situation. We won't risk our reputation or the success of your project.
Renegade team members are also a concern. Making independent decisions which override the needs of other stakeholders can result in a review, and the entire project can grind to an expensive halt.
So, whose role is it to set expectations?
This is a conversation that needs to take place between you and us. From our vantage point, we know you expect us to do our jobs because scope and deliverables are usually clearly documented. And that's as it should be. But we also expect you to uphold your side. As I mentioned before, if one side fails, we all fail.
The initial planning meetings to discuss teams and tasks results in an agreement which goes into the "project charter" (or similar, depending on the type of implementation methodology). We do this before anything else as we believe that we need to be proactive about making sure every requirement which contributes to the end project is completed.
Note: Fusion5 undertook a study a few years ago, and produced a guideline document outlining how to prepare for an implementation, what your team should look like, and how to allocate tasks and responsibilities.
When it comes to a new implementation, a dangerous piece of advice I've heard is: "If you build it, they will come." While that (misquoted) line may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, in real life, it's not a great strategy. A lack of user engagement or involvement in the design and build processes creates a vast distance between the business and the solution. This is where change management comes in.
Change management is best delivered from within the customer's organisation. If you’re unclear on what’s required, Fusion5 has a Professional Services team who can support and guide you in establishing an Organisational Change Management plan. The ideal change manager is someone who understands the business and its people, and can prepare and deliver a communication strategy to support and encourage engagement. Their role is critical to user acceptance, and the successful adoption of a new and often transformative solution.
By their very nature, some implementation projects can be lengthy and quite frankly, exhausting. It's important to recognise success along the way, but also the point when your team are 'over it,' and desperate to reach the finish line and return to a normal work-home life balance.
Don't underestimate the value of organising team social events or handing out individual rewards. Consider bowling, beers and pizza, gift baskets and restaurant vouchers. And a well-crafted, heartfelt thanks goes a long way.
Many variables can impact a project. Some of them, like the choice of product and partner, you can control, while others, like pandemics, hit you from left field.
It takes time and not inconsiderable effort to get an implementation off paper and rolled out into your business. Taking a strategic approach to getting and managing the right people on your team is - in my humble opinion - one of the surest ways to make it a success.
Industry Director, Operations - ERP