*These activities were instrumental in a recent Grants Management Implementation Project with an Indiana State Agency*
Executive Sponsorship and Involvement– Engagement from executives is essential. Projects require client leadership and sponsorship to align staff on the priorities, remove any barriers such as shifting workload, and making decisions that stick and empower the team. Client Executive Sponsors set the “big picture” vision for their staff, looking beyond just the one team/division/department/agency and thus allowing for an enterprise view of how government and citizens can benefit beyond the one project.
Vendors also need to have executive sponsorship and involvement from the vendor-side to quickly resolve issues, re-align resources as necessary and to make sure everyone is progressing in the same direction. On occasion a person or people need to be changed out from the project either on the client side, vendor side, or both. A vendor executive must have the courage and aptitude to discuss this with the client and make that change happen. The vendor executive must have experience in large project implementations to help see beyond the project details.
It is also important to remember to have fun. Celebrating project success, encouraging an uplifting atmosphere, and having a positive attitude all are vital to team success. This increases morale which ultimately increases productivity. This can be as simple as a pitch in lunch, a celebratory video call celebrating a milestone, a virtual game night or any other activity that would be team and morale-building.
Transparent and Collaborative Communication – Communication, communication, communication! We hear this. We know this. Yet too often projects lack proper communication. All teams must have a culture where everyone is encouraged to share ideas and bring issues to the table. System implementations rarely go exactly as planned. Successful ones easily navigate the bumps because the culture is one of open, transparent communication where everyone is comfortable providing input and sharing and solving issues together.
Using a tool that allows project team members to see status and other project information real-time is key to open communication. Meetings should be documented with minutes to capture the main decisions made. Requirements and User Stories must be documented and checked off as they are implemented so that it is clear what has been completed. To-do’s and issues must be tracked and proactively solved. This is basic project management and SDLC and yet I have seen other vendors not do this. This creates an environment where the client does not feel heard or listened to.
Often, multiple vendors are involved in a project. Having vendors who collaborate and operate as one team no matter who their paycheck comes from is a necessity for project success. By being transparent and collaborative we can focus more on the work ahead and ultimately reach the desired vision.
User Adoption – The best designed and implemented system is only successful if the users actually use it. A new solution is exactly that: New! Change for most people is scary and the natural human tendency is to resist it. This must be acknowledged by leadership and addressed from the very beginning of a project. Communication that draws excitement and outlines the benefits to the users is a must. Internal and external user training must be planned and documented. Completing the training is ideally mandated before being able to use the system to the extent possible. Having multiple “champions” of the system who can help other users is a best practice in user adoption. Having these champions involved in the project from the beginning also helps so they understand and can articulate why processes and objects work the way they do. Focusing on an intuitive, user-friendly interface helps with user adoption as well.
None of these topics are new and none are brain surgery. However, as you embark on a new system implementation, if you get these three things right, you will reap the rewards of a great project!
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