Don’t Let Poor Planning Derail Your Technology Implementation – Part 1: Project Specification
Poor planning is often the cause of problems that can delay project completion, cause project failure, increase costs, etc. By understanding what might happen and planning for potential problems, you’ll help mitigate project risk and increase your chances of success.
Have you seen those home improvement commercials where a young couple paints the entire interior of their house in less than one day without spilling a drop or encountering any problems whatsoever – and they’re smiling and enjoying the project every step of the way?
Anyone who’s ever done any home improvement project knows that this is almost never the case. Unexpected repairs and problems regularly cause delays and cost more money.
Technology implementations – even those “really easy” software-as-a-service based implementations – are no different.
Poor planning is often the cause of problems that can delay project completion, cause project failure, increase costs, adversely affect user adoption, hurt users’ morale and potentially leave an enterprise open to additional unforeseen risk (e.g. data leaks if security policy is not clearly communicated).
Scary, huh? But by understanding what might happen and planning for potential problems, you’ll help mitigate project risk and increase your chances of success.
I’ve segmented technology projects into four phases:
- Project specification (pre-planning)
- Post go-live
In a series of blog posts I’ll highlight the most common – and often neglected – risks and realities that companies should consider when embarking on any new technology implementation. This post tackles the first phase. In other words, these are things you should think about before you think about anything else:
- Key stakeholder identification. Think in terms of people, process and technology. When projects are being identified and specifications developed, it is important to identify all the stakeholders that will be affected by the project. This includes – but is not limited to – the project team, end users, executive sponsors and champions.
- Project charter. Good project management requires a project charter that initially scopes the project, outlines the goals and objectives, and identifies the roles and responsibilities of the project manager, project participants and key stakeholders. Project charters should also include risk assessments and a detailed change management process (in terms of changes to project specifications, timelines, budget, etc.).
- Project management. Large projects and projects that coincide and are interrelated with others should each have their own dedicated project manager, with a project management team reporting to him or her. Use certified Project Management Professionals when possible and the company’s project management organization if one exists. Project management is not a part-time position!
- Data migration. When migrating to a new system, ensure service-level agreements are in place with the incumbent vendors (or other business units, such as IT) to ensure how and when data can be migrated to your new system. Data cleansing/scrubbing and a purge of bad data should be a part of the migration plan.
- Existing vendor contracts. Be sure to understand the terms and conditions of agreements you have made with existing vendors. These must be taken into consideration before planning a new project, as they could lengthen project timelines or require extra funds/budget if monetary penalties exist for exiting a contract early.
- Costs. Have a clear understanding not just of project implementation costs, but of ongoing costs to maintain the system after the go-live date. Factor this into your budget considerations.
- Risk management. Every project has risk, and large projects involve a lot of risk. Calculate and manage risks by determining both their probability (i.e. likelihood of occurring) and severity (i.e. impact should they occur.) Some risks are more tolerable than others. Develop action plans for the most severe and/or likely risks, and be sure the team is ready to handle them.