It can be challenging and stressful to plan for technology initiatives, especially those that involve and impact every area of your organization. Common initiatives include software upgrades or replacements, such as systems for financial management (Enterprise Resource Planning), asset management, electronic health records, or permitting and inspections. Though the number of considerations when planning enterprise technology projects can be daunting, the greatest mistake you can make is not planning at all. By addressing just a few key areas, you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls such as exceeding budget and schedule targets, experiencing scope creep, and losing buy-in among stakeholders. Here are some tips to help you navigate your next project:
- Identify Resources and Availability
While most organizations understand the importance of identifying project stakeholder groups, it is often an afterthought. Defining these roles at the outset of your project helps you accurately estimate the work effort. Your stakeholder groups may include an executive sponsor, a steering committee, a project manager, functional leads, and a technical team. Once you’ve established the “demand” side of the relationship, you can begin reviewing your organization’s resources to determine the “supply” side. Planning for resource availability will help you avoid delays, minimize impact to regular business processes, and reduce the likelihood of burn-out. But this plan won’t remain static – you can expect to make updates throughout the project.
- Establish Goals and Objectives
It is important that an enterprise technology project has established goals and objectives statements. These statements will help inform decision-making, provide benchmarks for progress, and measure your project’s success. They can then be referenced when key stakeholders have differing perspectives on the direction to take with a pending decision. For example, if the objective of your project is to reduce paper-based processes, you may plan for additional computer workstations and focus technical resources on provisioning them. You’ll also be able to measure your success in the reduction of paper-based tasks.
- Determine Funding
Project funding is hardly ever overlooked, but can be complex with project budgets that are either underestimated or estimated without sufficient rationale to withstand approval processes and subsequent budget analysis. You may find that breaking down estimates to a lower level of detail helps address these challenges. Most technology projects incur costs in three key areas:
• Vendor cost: they can be both one-time and recurring costs (e.g., maintenance, support). • Infrastructure cost: the cost of any investments needed to support your project, such as data center hardware, networking components, or computing devices. • Supplemental resource cost: the cost of any additional resources needed for their specialized knowledge or to simply backfill project staff. This could include contracted resources or the additional cost of existing resources (i.e., overtime).
- Anticipate Change
Depending on the project, staff in many areas of your organization will be impacted by some level of change during a technology implementation. External stakeholders, such as vendors and the public, may also be affected. You can effectively manage this change by proactively identifying areas of likely change resistance and creating strategies to address them. Most likely you will encounter change resistance you did not predict. Having strategies in place will help you react quickly and effectively. Some proven change management strategies include communicating throughout your project, involving stakeholders to get their buy-in, and ensuring management has the right amount of information to share with their employees.
- Maintain a Proactive Focus and Stay Flexible
Even with the most thought-out planning, unforeseen events and external factors may impact your project. Establish mechanisms to regularly and proactively monitor project status so that you can address material risks and issues before their impact to the project grows. Reacting to these items as they arise requires key project stakeholders to be flexible. Key stakeholders must recognize that new information does not necessarily mean previous decisions were made in error, and that it is better to adapt than to stick to the initial direction.
An enterprise technology project is a massive undertaking, involving significant investment and a coordinated effort with individuals across multiple areas of an organization. Common mistakes can be costly, but having a structured approach to your planning can help avoid pitfalls. Our experienced, objective advisors have worked with public and private organizations across the country to oversee large enterprise projects from inception to successful completion. Please reach out to us if you would like to learn more.