Make your new tech project a success with these tried and tested tips.
If you’ve managed a new technology project before, then you know the tech is the easy part.
People are the challenge (and I mean that in the nicest way possible!)
Luckily, people and projects follow predictable patterns – no matter the size of your company.
So here’s the playbook you need to make your new project successful. It’s the same one I’ve used to help dozens of companies like Credit Suisse and Honeywell launch systems on time and on budget.
And it’s yours to steal.
Step 1: Get the right people in the room
The most successful organisations are those that get the right people in the room from day one and keep them engaged the whole time.
Who are the right people? It’s likely a mix of people across your organisation. Obvious inclusions are senior level decision makers. You also need to get the best technical brains in the room who understand the legacy system better than anyone else.
You need people who really understand your business – warts and all. Why are things done in the way that they are? What is the history? What are the processes? Are they defined in flowcharts and documents?
You might think your own processes are well-documented, but they need to be really specific for the design phase (i.e. do emails/reminders have to be sent at a particular stage and what happens after X number of days; who do we escalate to?)
Next, you need to spend significant time making sure everyone understands and agrees the objectives of the new system. You need the people who hold the purse strings to agree, so you can get resources in place.
And prepare for scepticism – especially from people who have been around a while. These long-time employees have seen it all, and they might carry hard feelings from previous projects that didn’t live up to the promises.
So don’t be quick to dismiss those who seem negative; sometimes they are the key to understanding why something was done in the past, and to identifying where complexity can be removed.
You’ll find if you address stakeholder concerns early on and make sure everyone feels heard and understood, you can get them on board and keep them there. And who knows? They could become your biggest ambassadors for the project.
Plan for pushback
No matter how great your new system is – or how much time and money it will save the company – you should expect pushback. Most humans hate change.
So approach their concerns with sympathy; after all, it can be hard to learn a new system.
And don’t forget about potential pushback from your suppliers. I often have customers who struggled previously with getting suppliers on legacy procurement systems.
Avoid that chaos by bringing your key suppliers in early.
For example, Maxim Healthcare struggled for seven long years to get suppliers on their legacy system. The suppliers pushed back en masse against the terms they had to accept, and possible fees faced by the vendor’s supplier network approach.
So when they asked us to help them launch a new system, we put suppliers at the centre. Their suppliers were thrilled with the friendlier terms and approach. The result? Maxim Healthcare launched a shiny new P2P system in eight weeks with more suppliers than they acquired in the previous seven years.
Define requirements and objectives
Before you go shopping, do the important work of laying down requirements and objectives.
Think of it like painting a room. The actual painting goes quickly; it’s all the prep work that takes the time.
Now is the opportunity to review your old processes and see if they’re still serving your company.
Get into the detail at the design phase and understand that documenting your processes will help to work out what you are doing now and where you can find efficiencies, cost savings, and better user adoption.
Everyone in your stakeholder group should agree on what your company needs in a new system. That will save you from scope creep (and many headaches) later on – when changes will be infinitely more expensive.
Once you know what you’re looking for, scrutinise different technology providers. Make sure you understand what is possible now with current technology.
At this stage, your provider should act as a friendly interrogator, questioning any areas they find in your processes that could be simplified. However, the act of removing that complexity is up to you. Will you make the most of the new technology you are paying good money for?
Look at the whole puzzle
A system may seem perfect in isolation, but you need to understand how it fits with the rest of your company set-up.
After all, you’re looking for a seamless flow of information, a consistent user experience, and a unified data model that supports 360 degree visibility of suppliers and activity.
None of that is possible if your company systems aren’t compatible.
Also understand how the new tech system you choose can grow and change as your company changes.
Some systems are too rigid to support those changes, meaning you could have a redundant system on your hands after only a few months.
And you should also consider how other existing company systems could change in the future. Are any of them due for an upgrade soon? Stay close to your CIO so your company makes the most of tech investments.
Allow for flexibility
Successful projects allow for flexibility in timing. Things will change and bumps will come up over the course of your project – no matter how precise your planning.
That’s why we use a hybrid agile/ waterfall method on our own projects (and encourage customers to use the same).
What does that mean? The waterfall approach is to build the system and then show it. Agile means to build as you go.
Instead of choosing one over the other, we use both methods. That brings a nice balance of predictability with a level of flexibility to address unforeseen or evolving requirements.
At the design phase we try to lock down 80% of requirements and in this way we still maintain 20% for a level of flexibility. Though as mentioned earlier, it’s wise to get as specific as possible.
You might be surprised how quickly a project can come together this way. Take the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for example. They needed the ability to upload bid submittals electronically, and we helped them launch the feature in just one week.
Nailing down exactly what you need will make the actual build phase go quicker. And building in contingency time means you won’t get caught off guard when you reach a hiccup.
Send in the A-team
You need to take people off their day-to-day work and give them the time to focus on this project.
Have dedicated project team members who solely work on launching the new system. They should be able to answer business and technical questions, and to report back on user issues and gripes.
This is especially important during the early stages of the project, but no less important throughout the entire process.
The best way to mitigate issues is to plan for them by making sure that you have enough and the right resources.
Once the procurement system is rolled out, it’s key to keep the same team engaged so a knowledge exchange to the support team can take place. They should stay put for at least a few weeks after launch to ensure a smooth transition.
Successful project teams are always communicating.
At the start of any new project, I set up monthly steering meetings at the executive level. There are weekly project status meetings with project leaders, Ivalua, partners and clients to share what has been done, the challenges and what’s planned for the next week.
We put any roadblocks or risks on the table and take a realistic health check on the overall project status.
I also schedule “Work in Progress” reviews to keep everything on track and spot issues a long way off.
These checkpoints allow us to confirm we are headed in the right direction, and we can take some feedback to adjust it when needed.
You can do this
To summarise, when you managing a new tech project of any size, there are the three keys to success:
1) Know what your goals are, and make sure these are communicated to your internal teams and to the companies you are working with.
2) Have the right people in the room.
3) Complete a robust, open and transparent design phase to get what you want and guarantee that your organisation gets what it needs.
Finally, make sure you report your after-launch success back to senior management. Ivalua did some research earlier this year that showed 67% of procurement professionals believe that their colleagues consider them to be a key business partner contributing significant strategic value.
They already know you are valuable. Your project is another opportunity to prove it.