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10 Non-tech Strategies for Tech Project Success

Success is slippery and can be evasive, even on the simplest of projects. Grasping it grows harder during lengthier and more complex undertakings, such as enterprise-wide technology projects—and requires incorporating a variety of short- and long-term strategies. Yet focusing only on the technological aspects of these projects is not enough. Here are 10 non-tech strategies for success in tech projects.

1. Gain leadership support.
An enterprise-wide technology project can transform an entire organization. Therefore, the first step toward success is to ensure your leadership makes the project an organizational priority. Projects described as "IT projects” in the past must now be seen as strategic business solutions that meet the needs of the organization, prioritized in sync with goals and objectives of the organization. Executives and management need to be on board and demonstrate solid commitment to the project. This dramatically improves the likelihood of project success, and your team knows that leadership is supporting their efforts.

2. Develop and promote a shared vision.
To start a successful project, members across the organization must understand and embrace a shared vision. One way to encourage this is to hold “vision sessions” where key stakeholders meet to talk about how they see the new technology improving operations. Building consensus early on allows your staff to be fully open to change, in turn helping generate positive and creative ideas.

3. Establish project tenets. 
Project leadership must develop a set of project goals and expectations, or tenets, which help staff understand the rationale for the project. They should be clearly defined, meaningful, and when possible, measurable, so the organization knows what success is—and how to achieve it. Tenet examples include:

We will collect and share information across the organization, subject to appropriate security and privacy compliance.
The use of standard business processes across the organization will minimize variations.
We will not design the new system based on existing workflows, and instead will use industry best practices.

4. Create a governance structure.
Early on in the project, identify a clear decision-making structure for resolving issues that arise and preventing delays. Although the project team should address issues first, having an agreed-upon process for issue escalation to leadership will be valuable when you can’t reach consensus.

5. Set realistic timelines.
Set realistic timelines, communicate them clearly, and refer to them often. An easily accessible visual timeline helps maintain project momentum and enthusiasm. It also helps you manage expectations and prevent scope creep. It’s important for the leadership team to inform staff of any changes that will impact their daily responsibilities or affect the timeline or scope of the project.

6. Engage key stakeholders early and often.
Change—even positive change—is stressful. Change management is an essential cornerstone to project success. Building sustainable collaboration and project buy-in from stakeholders at project onset and maintaining it throughout the project life cycle is critical to meeting deadlines and a successful outcome. In the case of a new system selection or implementation project, your operational leads should design and champion new workflows supported by enabled technology. Staff members need to work in sync with your IT department to translate their operational needs into technology requirements.

7. Develop a comprehensive communication plan.
A comprehensive communication plan is vital to the success of any project. It keeps stakeholders engaged and project teams motivated. It also includes the use of visual graphics, website videos, and/or social media for targeting the right groups with the right message at the right time, and in the right manner.

8. Don’t skimp on resources.
Adequate finances, technical infrastructure, and “people” resources must be committed for the long haul—project success is a journey, not a destination. Give your staff enough time to participate in planning, workflow redesign, and ongoing education. In order to help ensure key staff are available for system design and testing work, identify backfill resources for peak time periods in the project.

9. Practice change management for cultural considerations.
Your organization must prepare, support, and sustain all employees through effective change management in order to effect a culture of change. Pre-planning will help to identify potential roadblocks and areas of resistance, and facilitate embracing change.

Resistance comes from the degree of change required, and when staff members believe new technology is just a passing fad. It will take time—and commitment—for your staff members to learn how to use the new technology efficiently and understand its benefits.

10. Develop an effective and sustainable training plan.
An effective and sustainable training plan can’t be overemphasized. It should identify training resources, including personnel, locations, and equipment. In addition, a comprehensive training plan addresses different learning styles of various staff members and multiple training models, such as face-to-face classroom, virtual labs, and online learning. You can supplement these training models with “just in time” 1:1 role-based scenario trainings as needed. The plan should include the development of various training aides, including playbooks, scripts, quick-tip reference sheets, and FAQs. Finally, the plan should include methods for assessing staff proficiency, such as competency assessments and follow-up incremental trainings after go-live.

Additional strategies for tech project success
Ultimately, 10 is an arbitrary number. There are more non-tech strategies you can deploy to achieve tech project success. And of course, there are some tech-specific approaches you should know. If you would like to discuss these strategies—and the concrete tactics your organization can use to implement them on a day-to-day basis—please reach out to me.

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