I recently read an article from CIO.com, where they examined several failed ERP rollouts. In turn, they proposed two solutions to deliver successful project outcomes. They were the importance of ensuring key stakeholder continuity and the importance of an executive sponsor. Having spent the last fifteen years helping companies deliver transformational change via technology projects, I would like to add to the above with what I witnessed to be the four critical drivers that ensure IT project success, and client value realization.
Critica Driver #1 – Executive Sponsorship
The first critical driver of project success is having a senior executive assigned early and having them involved often.
Even small scale projects will frequently touch on many functional areas within the business.
There must be someone in place who can unite these various interests, set the strategic vision, break down internal barriers, and ensure that the best resources are assigned to support the ultimate project outcome and ROI attainment.
I think the Project Management Institute said it best in their, Pulse of the Profession – Success in Disruptive Times, report.
Executive sponsors who guide a project to fruition are critical to project success. One in four organizations (26%) reports that inadequate sponsor support is the primary cause of failed projects. And, the divide between underperformers and champions is almost 2.5 times: 41% of underperformers say inadequate sponsor support is a primary cause of failure versus only 17% of champions.PMIs The Pulse of the Profession, 2018, Expanding the Value Delivery Landscape to Address the High Cost of Low Performance
Critical Driver #2 – Project Manager and Backfill
Following a close second to executive sponsorship would be an assigned project manager who is in close contact with the executive sponsor.
The project manager will ensure proper resource allocation and backfill, adherence to timelines, work cross-functionally across the organization, highlight and manage risk, and communicate with all the relevant stakeholders.
The importance of backfill can not be understated. Backfill is critical to the project’s success as the project team must have the leeway needed to analyze requirements, support the build, perform testing, and drive to a successful rollout. In the absence of backfill, overworked, stressed employees, may miss critical deliverables, leading to poor project launch and delays in value realization.
Critical Driver #3 – The Importance of Embracing Change
Another critical factor in the successful project rollout will be change management on an organizational and individual level.
It is safe to say that very few people like change, we are naturally comfortable with our current habits, we know the routines, the risk, and we can operate on autopilot.
With new technology, we have unique risks, we have to think about things that were once automatic, we may have to trust machines to do tasks that once defined our roles, we may not understand why the change is occurring, and inevitably it is only natural to push back against this change.
I can think of a couple of examples from my own life that speaks to the impact of failing to accept and adopt newer technology.
My First iPhone
In 2012 I purchased what turned out to be the most transformative piece of technology I own, my first iPhone.
My sister was the first in our family to own one. I remember how she would rave about it, and all the amazing apps you could get. All I remember thinking was, that’s silly, I don’t need apps, all I want is a phone with a keyboard.
I was so fixated on the missing keyboard that I pushed back against the opportunities that were presented for at least two to three years.
Now, of course, like most people, my iOS devices are the most essential pieces of technology I own. They keep me organized, connected with family, direct me where I need to go, and have vastly increased my productivity.
Just the other night I heard a cover of a song while while watching Netflix. I quickly pulled up Shazam and discovered it was Daniela Andrade covering Crazy by Gnarles Barkley. I then commented to my wife about how amazing this device is, how we don’t even realize it, but when you think about it, it’s like I’m living in the times of Star Trek.
It still amazes me to think that I rejected it for years.
Improving Personal Productivity Through Evernote
Lastly, I can call out my obsession with keeping paper notes, which dutifully get filled, and filed away, never to be seen again.
Many times in life, I have thought that there has to be a better way, so I have sought out and tried different pieces of technology such as Evernote without success.
Earlier this year, I started writing and having a way to record my thoughts and access my notes became critically important.
With that, I decided to research note taking solutions, and I kept coming back to Evernote as the highest rated app on the market.
I then decided to give it an honest try, to see if there are ways I can change my habits to better leverage this type of technology, and I can honestly say there has been no turning back.
Although it required some learning and some minor change in processes, I now realize that the problem was never Evernote, but my own rigid mindset, and inability to adapt to change.
Evernote enables me to record my thoughts, access those thoughts, all while arranging everything in a way that makes sense, much more effectively than paper ever could be.
When we purchase new technology, we are enabling a significant change in habits, and habits are hard to break.
There are four key things that you will need to focus on to break these habits:
- Ensure that leadership is delivering the message for why this project is of critical importance to the strategic goals of the company, and the impact that a successful rollout will have on each individuals ability to succeed and the potential work-life improvements that will open up to them.
- As described below, leverage mavens within your organization who will build excitement and encourage change.
- Recognize the different needs posed by a multi-generational workforce when building a change management plan that accounts for their needs and is tailored in a way that best enables them to embrace that change.
- Lastly, recognize that when employees push back, it is essential to listen to their concerns, and to treat it as a training opportunity to recommunicate the value to the employee of adapting to the opportunities presented.
Critical Driver #4 – Leverage Mavens
I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read all of his books, and am currently making my way through season five of his Revisionist History Podcast.
In his book The Tipping Point, he calls out the power of Maven’s. According to Malcolm, Mavens are information specialists that people look up to. Mavens are people who want to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving their own, and they are great at starting widespread word of mouth enabled change due to their knowledge, social skills, and their ability to communicate.
I firmly believe that a sound strategy in any product rollout will be to seek out and involve these Maven’s early, and often throughout the project lifecycle. An excellent opportunity to engage these mavens will be during the user acceptance testing phase, where they will be able to see the benefits first hand.
A key driver for the success of any project is end-user adoption. Your mavens will be the critical drivers who will build this excitement across the organization, getting the broader team on board, and excited for the future.
The adoption of new technology, whether large or small presents the opportunity to enact considerable opportunity for value creation across the organization.
With this opportunity, there are also a variety of risks, including missed opportunities caused by narrow scope, a misalignment of goals, poor end-user adoption, and imperfect value realization.
To reduce and eliminate these risks it will be important to embrace the four critical drivers of project success by ensuring executive involvement early and often, to secure a strong project manager, to ensure proper change management, and lastly to leverage your mavens to build excitement across the organization.