Discover how to avoid pitfalls during the project planning phase of a technology implementation.

In my last post, I segmented technology projects into four phases and highlighted common — and often neglected — points and risks to consider during the project specification (pre-planning) phase of a technology implementation.

To recap, the phases are:

  • Project specification (pre-planning)
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Post go-live

This post tackles the second phase: planning. By and large, this phase is the most critical. Mistakes made here will be magnified during the execution and post-go-live phases of your implementation. Guard against the following pitfalls:

Technology implementation planning

  • Failing to define requirements. After identifying key stakeholders, establish communications with them to learn their needs and expectations of the project outcome.  Requirements that are not well defined prior to project execution will result in dissatisfaction among key stakeholders and can lead to delays and/or require re-scoping the project.

  • Lack of IT involvement.  Do not underestimate the complexity of bringing a new technology on board. Whether the technology lives in-house or in the cloud, chances are you’ll need IT at some point during implementation or after the project is completed. IT also tends to own a lot of a company’s project management skills and can be a great sounding board or partner in developing your project plan.
  • Lack of executive sponsorship. Having executive management’s support is a best practice for getting a project approved, obtaining the necessary budget and resources, and driving user adoption and true project success.
  • Resource gaps. Projects are commonly planned without rigorous investigation into the skills, experience and capabilities (both technological and project management) needed to see the project to completion and post-go-live.  Resources (e.g. specialists, project managers) may need to be borrowed from other business units or departments or even outsourced,depending on the size and scope of the project.
  • Not verifying resource availability. The organization might have the proper resources, but they may not be available during the project timeframe. This can  cause an unexpected resource gap.
  • Not focusing on the portfolio. Dependencies between projects/tasks need to be well managed. Projects that are planned and executed with little regard to other projects in the portfolio end up competing for resources (e.g. people, systems, budget).
  • Not mapping milestones and deliverables. These should be clearly laid out in the project plan and include a system to measure progress (baseline vs. actuals). A system of penalties and rewards (monetary or otherwise) can help drive the desired behavior.
  • Failing to establish measurements. Every properly executed project establishes metrics and measurements during the planning phase that are used throughout the duration of the project and continually after the project goes live. This helps determine ROI of the project, establish baselines for future projects and provide valuable feedback on potential improvements. Additionally, it helps surface any new (possibly unforeseen) requirements that can be added to the system in future scheduled releases and updates.
  • Neglecting to include a feedback mechanism. Include a feedback mechanism for the planning phase of the project, document it and distribute it to the project team and executive sponsors. Feedback helps uncover issues and improves the current planning process. It should be taken into consideration in future projects.
  • Insufficient stakeholder communication. At this stage, a communication plan should be developed. Communicate (e.g. through emails, lunch sessions, internal blogging, signage in common areas ) to stakeholders the project’s purpose, how it ties to enterprise goals, what stakeholders should expect, how and why the project will affect them, and project milestones (described at a conceptual level). Get creative and play to your company culture and preferred communication methods.
  • Not account for training needs.  Understand that every new technology or process requires a learning curve for users to adapt and gain proficiency. Plan time and required resources for training sessions that will take place at project completion, and determine the appropriate format.