In the world of enterprise technology, an experienced implementations and integrations firm gains a lot of experience with projects and their outcomes. Following are scenarios that companies need to know to keep IT project implementations on track (and which, largely, are not in the control of your partner implementation firm).
Quick caveat: Some of the below may feel like a little tough love, however, the intention is to shed clarity on what can be pivotal points in any IT project implementation. You could even use the below as a checklist for where to start identifying issues in currently problematic project implementations.
- Customer is not a fit for the solution. It is vital that, from the beginning, honest conversations are held to determine the fit of the solution relative to business targets. Just as fish aren’t designed to climb trees, there are sometimes when solutions are not the right fit to achieve the intended outcome. Ideally, this gets sorted out when in the pre-sales / sales stage of the process.
- Staff turnover. Change happens. Growth is the prime directive in business. In either case, staff can be affected. When there is staff turnover mid-implementation, it can leave a knowledge or skills gap that can slow, stall or even derail a project. In the event of staff change, the best alternative is to have a backup already trained or, in a worst-case scenario, a way to access the information needed through the transition.
- Organizational commitment. IT projects require varying levels of commitment from the organization, from leadership, management and staff buy-in to financial backing to being willing to disrupt operations to upgrade. When any part of the organization is not committed, the project can be adversely affected. Communication is a big key to success in terms of harnessing and actualizing the necessary commitment(s).
- Product issues. In the case where an IT project implementation revolves around a particular product, if that product has issues, additional expertise is required from either the supplier vendor of that product or your partner implementation firm. Either way, unless product issues are handled, the project will stall and/or workaround measures will need to be taken; the optimal resolution is for the product issues to be resolved before implementation work continues.
- No one driving success. While a company may commit to an IT project implementation, there may not be a champion or single point of contact responsible for assuring necessary elements are provided or in place. Just like the Abilene Paradox, if someone doesn’t ‘own’ the results, nobody steps up to help make them happen. Appoint a project lead to ensure project success.
- Lack of communication between customer and implementation team. Communication goes both ways; if there is a breakdown or constricted/limited communication from either the customer firm or the technical partner firm, the project could experience unexpected outcomes. As the old adages say, don’t assume anything and better to over- than under-communicate.
- Not establishing trust. When a company chooses a tech partner, it’s a big deal and should be taken seriously. If there is any doubt or lack of trust (on either part), the project could (and likely will) experience some level of adversity in the implementation process. Should a lack of trust EVER be a concern, it’s a 911 to have a conversation immediately. Lay out what’s going on so everyone can talk it through and get the project on track.
- Fear that technical partner staff are trying to take jobs from customer personnel. This challenge can be triggered when there are insecurities within customer employees. However, this particular challenge is very easy to resolve in that people choose to work for implementation and integration firms for many reasons – a variety of projects, expertise gained from numerous environments, applying what they know in different situations and more. On top of that, there is typically a non-compete in place at the highest level. (And even more, it’s not the ‘right’ thing to do for employees of a trustworthy technical partner.) Taking jobs from customer employees should never be a substantiated concern (and if it is, a serious conversation must be had immediately).
- Complex, embedded or unknown technology is encountered. While the scope of work should take into account the customer’s full IT environment, there are times when it’s just not possible to know or predict every bit of the technology at play in a project. When complex, embedded or even unknown/new technology is encountered in a project, there will be either a learning curve or additional time needed to untangle and tame the technology. Make sure communication is thorough and consistent to keep this aspect of the project as smooth as possible.
- Scope creep and/or customer expectations not met. While project Statements of Work (SOW) should clearly state the scope of the project, sometimes there are either greater needs or expectations than what has been documented. In some cases, this happens when a customer assumes that an additional aspect just ‘goes’ with the stated scope of work. In others, staff turnover may want to change the scope of work. And in others, project momentum may surface additional work that needs to be handled. In all cases, the only way through these potentially ‘sticky situations’ is to talk it out. The best perspective is to know it’s about what will serve the project best (vs. making it personal or using assumptions as facts). When possible, document the ‘gap’ and make recommendations to resolve it as quickly and easily as possible.
While every IT project implementation has the potential to go sideways, the fact is that most go fairly smoothly when there is advance planning, the right expertise, mutual trust, and consistent, candid communication. By knowing the above ways to keep IT project implementations smooth, you can ensure successful outcomes for your company’s projects.
This post was originally published here.