Statistically speaking, projects and transformations do not have the odds in their favor. According to Commodity Technology Advisory, over 50% of CTRM implementation projects fail to some degree. There are several reasons that could lead to a failed outcome, but if a project is listed as failed, it means that the organization opted to pull the plug before they got to the finish line.
We often get called into projects that have bogged down somewhere along the delivery journey and are asked to help get things moving again. Successfully getting a project unstuck is both art and part science because the factors that caused the project to get stuck in the first place are usually not obvious. In fact, if it were obvious, the project probably would not have gotten stuck in the first place. This lack of clarity or "one thing to fix" can be frustrating and can result in a decision to cancel the project or to pursue it a future date.
In this blog, we will share a few of the tips that we leverage when we are brought into a struggling project:
A common reaction to a struggling project is to take a long pause or pull the plug and start over. While this is a decisive and viable action, it can also be very detrimental in some unforeseen ways. For example, when it is time to restart the project the level of skepticism in the organization is typically very high, thus further increasing the difficulty of the project. When dealing with a stranded project, we advise the following:
- Create a realistic timeline and criteria to do a "health check" and recommendation for moving forward. A defined timeline for when key decisions will be made will help to manage expectations and provide a sense of certainty.
- Identify all the stakeholders and communicate appropriately. Often times, lack of communication or over-communication can be a challenge for a project so it is important to be intentional about how and when information gets shared within the organization.
- Keep in mind that it is going to take time for the mood to change. Expect a feeling of skepticism.
Dig into the root cause (be clear on what problem(s) you are trying to solve)
As we said before, the cause of the challenges is probably not obvious and there are likely multiple contributing factors. A key question we repeatedly ask ourselves is "what problem are we trying to solve?”. The answer(s) to the question helps us generate a list of issues or opportunities that need to be addressed. Below are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Be comprehensive and ask what are all the factors that are contributing to the current state of affairs. This is not about pointing fingers but trying to get a handle on the facts. Once the facts are on the table it is a lot easier to decide what to do next. Remember, facts are friendly so be factual without placing blame and taking emotion out of the discussion.
- Small shifts can create significant impact. There might be several underlying factors that all need to be addressed. Some of the most common are lack of a credible plan, ineffective engagement of the business stakeholders, and lack of clarity of the project objectives.
- Here is a hint it is about the people. Technology may be a factor, but in 95% of our projects that involve a packaged CTRM solutions, the greater challenge is around governance or whether the right resources are being engaged in the right way. If there are skill gaps then it is easier to pinpoint which skills will create the most benefit.
Create a plan that the team believes in, then get others on board
Whether it is Agile or Waterfall, a clear plan can go a long way towards overcoming negative perceptions and gaining real buy-in. The key to the plan being credible is that it needs to be well thought and can be simply described on a page. The plan will rightfully be challenged, but thoughtful answers to those questions will help to build confidence that the people in charge are thinking about the right things. When creating a plan, consider the following:
- Break the work into logical components
- Identify dependencies and sequences needed to accomplish the goal
- Inventory risk and issues that might impede the plan and create mitigating actions
- Get buy-in by working with smaller groups to identify if they feel like they can be successful and what they need from others
Achieve quick wins and be transparent about the issues
Once the plan is in place, it is important to get quick wins and capitalize on the momentum. The feeling of progress can change the entire mood of the team so be sure to communicate regularly. Another tactic is to provide complete transparency into issues as they arise. Transparent dealings help to build trust, which will be needed to help overcome the inevitable "unknown unknowns". Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:
- Celebrate successes; Growth/progress will change the mood and perception
- If something does not work, learn from it and move on. Not everything a project team attempts will work flawlessly. However, there is always something to be learned that can be applied to the next attempt.
- Foster a culture of collaboration. Any successful project needs a high-performing team. A part of this culture needs to be a feeling of shared-success and shared rewards.
If your company is implementing a CTRM system and the project is "stuck" perhaps these tactics can help to get things back on track. CTRM systems can add tremendous value to the enterprise we certainly encourage you to keep up the journey.
At Veritas Total Solutions, we have deep experience in CTRM Systems and believe our strong project management skills make us uniquely positioned to get CTRM projects "unstuck" and ultimately create business value. If you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us to learn more or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.