Over the years, I have been fortunate to play a part in multiple projects where new technology has been implemented in various types of organizations. The differing roles that I played as well as the varying types of technology that have been implemented, have given me a broad view of the issues that present themselves when a small to medium size business embarks on an implementation project.
I will be splitting up this article into three parts: Proper Planning, Execution and Follow-Through. I will explore each of these three phases at a very high level and, specifically, in regards to problems I see small and medium size businesses face when implementing a new solution.
Unfortunately, many organizations never properly and thoroughly prepare for an implementation. As tends to be customary in smaller groups, assumptions that everyone is on the same page and that they ‘just get it’ can lead to major headaches throughout the implementation and, at worst, a failed project. Leaders need to be very specific in regards to the following considerations:
- Why the new technology is being implemented. What problems are we trying to solve? What new capabilities are we trying to acquire? The organization’s needs should be center stage when determining whether to implement a new solution and they should be communicated in detail, leaving no room for assumptions. It is important that this message is communicated to every person that the project will impact. Explaining the reason why a new solution is being implemented will result in less resistance as the new processes are implemented.
- The impact on business processes. A new technology solution, alone, will not give you results. It is only a tool and you must develop processes that govern its use. Leaders need to identify what processes will have to change and the new processes that will be needed in order to achieve the business objectives associated with implementing a new solution. It is important to analyze these changes before you start the implementation and clearly define what these processes will look like after the project is completed.
- How much will it cost? Too many organizations never really take into consideration the real cost of implementing a new solution. Most simply look at the ticket price of the application or equipment and fail to consider the manpower and other indirect costs that will hit the books as a result of the project. For example, if you are implementing a new cloud software solution that is replacing an existing one, there will more than likely be overlap in usage fees for both. Vary rarely are you able to cut out one before you start paying for the other. Another cost that is neglected is the impact on your staff’s productivity. A new implementation not only costs you manpower in relation to the team members involved in executing the project, but also with all of the staff that will be affected by the new solution. They will need to be trained how to use the new technology and how their jobs have changed as a result of its use.
- Plan to adapt. When you are in the throes of an implementation, there will always be curveballs and detours. It is important to recognize that the team will have to be able to shift quickly and adapt to changing requirements and other issues. Communicate to the team that this is to be expected and that while the goal is to execute a project completely as planned, it is highly unlikely that it will happen. It is important that the leader has the ability to adapt and guide the team through the changes that may be negative, neutral or result in a positive shift in the project.
In my next post, we will cover the actual execution of the project and methods that organizations can use to guarantee a successful implementation.