In almost anything, upfront planning greatly increases our chance at success. There are maxims such as “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” that serve as useful reminders of the importance of planning. When it comes to success and failure of a key project, we have found that few things impact the overall outcome like adequate planning at the beginning AND throughout the project.
At Veritas, Measure-Twice, Cut Once is the way we remind ourselves of the need to plan. Some people hear this and think “too rigid or too slow”, but our experience has been that we can work in an agile way throughout the project and avoid key mistakes with adequate planning.
We have authored this piece from the perspective that extensive planning should occur at the start of the project. Here are some ways to “measure twice” when the project begins.
1. Identify Stakeholders
Identifying stakeholders and documenting their needs is one of the most critical tasks that a project manager can complete. While meeting all needs is never the goal, proactively engaging with all stakeholders will help make sure that there are no surprises and that there is a broad feeling of inclusion. Transparency and inclusion take time on the front-end, but will pay dividends later in the project by increasing the pace of user adoption.
Another benefit of defining the stakeholders up front is that it also provides an opportunity to get ahead of any misaligned expectations. One way to keep the expectations aligned is to establish early on how to work with the stakeholder. Do we meet with the stakeholders weekly? Do they have a resource in their group who can be the subject matter expert? Is this a priority for their team? Taking time to define and document this process will ensure clarity across the roles and responsibilities of the group. Constant communication with this group will be crucial.
2. Clarify Goals
This can be easier said than done especially when multiple stakeholder groups involved. Users from the front, mid and back office could have completely different needs and priorities and these needs must be discussed to a sufficient level of detail to ensure alignment. During a recent upgrade of Allegro, the goal for the project was originally stated as to “reduce or eliminate custom class events, as a way of streamlining support.” While that was important, the primary goal of the project was more about enabling the expansion of the business. This can feel small like a small shift, but it significantly impacted the amount of effort that was planned for process definition and user change management.
Another tactic that we use to make sure that we are focused on the right things is to constantly ask ourselves “what problem are we trying to solve.” This helps to make sure that we have a true grasp of the issues and desired objectives. It is common for things to shift as clarity emerges. Along the way, sometimes a project manager will uncover the real issue and will have to come up with completely new solution.
3. Define Priorities
The majority of the projects will have multiple goals. It is important to prioritize this list because staying focused on the right priorities will affect the success of the project. Different stakeholder groups will have different opinions on priorities. Make sure differences in opinion are resolved during the initial phase of the project so that the team can move forward working on the high priority items first. During a recent project planning phase, we identified automation of scheduling as a top priority for the client. After thorough conversation, we were able to clarify that the actual number one goal for the organization was to finish the project ahead of the winter season and that automated scheduling was a distant second. Had we focused on scheduling at the expense of the project schedule, we would have won the battle and lost the war.
Throughout the project life, the project manager will need to revisit priorities. Priorities will change and that is something that the team will have to understand and the project team to manage. Constant communication with the project team and a clear process to change/add the list are needed.
4. Define the Roles of the System
During our CTRM projects, technology is usually a part of the solution. Software selections are important but ahead of picking a technology, it is important to have clarity on the desired role of the system. It is easy for companies to make a bad technology choice if the businesses requirements are not clearly defined up front. If selecting a system is needed, see our blog about Top 5 Things to consider when selecting a CTRM system.
5. Identify Risks
Our goal is “no-surprises” in our projects, which is not the same as not having any risk materialize. Not all risk can be avoided, but when a risk occurs and the organization sees that it was anticipated and planned for, it actually gives credibility to the overall project plan and allows the team to quickly move past it. Risk identification is not a check the box exercise that happens at the beginning of the project but should be revisited regularly throughout.
As the steps are completed, the results should be incorporated into the project plan. However, even with the best of planning, there will be changes and the occasional unexpected issue. The planning strategies listed above are ways to better anticipate and prepare for these changes, which will minimize negative impact on the project. The bottom line, good upfront planning, preparation and communication takes time and, in the end, will produce better results.
This blog is part of the CTRM Project Management Done Right series. Check out our other blogs in the series.
- CTRM Project Management Done Right
- Expectation Management: The Difference Between Project Success and Failure
- Unknown Unknowns: How to Manage Risk Against the Unexpected
- Embedded Change Management: How to be a Change Manager without Telling Anyone
- Stabilization: 4 Tips to Increase User Adoption for CTRM Projects
- Optimizing Post Go-Live: 5 Tips to Ensure Delivery of Business Value
At Veritas Total Solutions, we are experts in Project and Change Management. We are skilled in setting up CTRM Systems project for a success, minimize project risks and managing project progress thoroughly from the beginning. If you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us to learn more or subscribe to our blog to stay connected!