15 January 2020

Get your implementations right


When you’re looking at a new project, new software, a whole change management programme, there’s one thing that fills teams with fear… the implementation.

No matter how carefully you’ve selected your provider or supplier, and no matter how strong your initial business plan seemed, there’s always problems that arise with an implementation that leaves a bad taste.

Getting your implementation right is absolutely crucial to ensure your organisation gets the estimated value from the project, and that teams are on board and happy to embrace your new process.

So what can you do to keep your implementation on track and ensure your project runs smoothly? We’ve got 5 top tips to help you.

Keeping teams on the same page

In any project team, you’re going to have lots of different people and personalities, different expectations and teams internally and externally working in multiple locations. It can be difficult to keep all these people on track and on the same page.

First things first, make sure your team gets acquainted with everyone involved in the project. If your people don’t know who they should be talking to, how to reach out, and when they need to check-in, trust levels are going to fall, and resentment can build. Set up an initial meeting with everyone to kick-off the project.

Create a schedule with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, specify the best communication channels for your team to ask questions and keep in touch. This ensures everyone understands who to go to and know when each stage of the project needs to move forward.

At MHR, we set expectations from the very beginning of our projects, so that everyone knows exactly what the goals and outcomes are before a contract has even been signed. This means that both our team, and our customer’s team, are on the same page from the very beginning.

Clearly define goals and objectives

At the start of a project, many organisations have an idea of where they want to be, and what they want to improve, but they can’t always see the full picture. Sometimes you may have an aim in mind, but no idea how to complete it or what your organisation needs to do to get there.

Any project without clear outcomes and goals is doomed to fail because they’ll be too many setbacks and unplanned risks that you’ll struggle to overcome, and the costs will rise.

Each step in a project should have clearly defined goals, which cover the how, why and what. These are often formed by taking your initial business case and adding in more specific details to form a schedule, identify risks, and allocate responsibilities. The best project plans are based on long term thinking to create phases, so that you know what your project needs to deliver now, and in the future.

At MHR, we carry out scopes in advance, so that we can understand what a business needs, and how we can make sure we deliver those goals and outcomes for your organisation.

Set realistic deadlines

We can all think of a time when a stakeholder sets a project with a deadline so short it’s impossible to meet. The result is a rushed project that isn’t fully fit for purpose and doesn’t last before it’s either forgotten or needs to be redone.

With a huge project implementation, you need to think, research and plan exactly how much time is realistic. And if a stakeholder wants it faster, you need to justify why you need the extra time.

With a fully formed plan outlining what tasks need to be completed, and how long each one will take, you’ll be in a much better position to communicate effectively to avoid having lots of additional pressure added. It’s also important to highlight any areas which might slip or take longer due to potential risks so you can factor them into your timeframe.

MHR’s project implementation team take the time to review an organisation’s needs in advance, in order to provide estimated timeframes based on goals and outcomes to ensure each project is delivered on time.

Managing and assessing risk

All projects have a level of risk, whether it’s the initial quote sitting very close to your maximum budget, a short timescale to get the work done, or changes in the market that alter your requirements mid-project. The key to success is to try and predict as many as possible in order to create control measures and contingency plans.

If your project is likely to take 18 months to two years to complete, you need to research and consider whether your planned solution is future-proof to take into account your business growth within that time. Set a 10% buffer within your budget for any sneaky additional costs. Look at the skills and people you need to complete the project and analyse whether any are likely to leave before the project is finished. 

A common risk often forgotten is that a successful project needs support from your people internally in order to provide value for your organisation. Any project plan needs to mitigate the risks of employees not engaging and find ways to make sure everyone is on board.

At MHR, we help our customers to highlight any risks when creating the implementation schedule, in order to predict any setbacks that might occur and plan accordingly. Using stage gates and change control processes, risk is reduced and the decision makers can influence project progress in a controlled and collaborative way.

Create a sense of accountability

When things start to go wrong when working on a team project, it’s easy to point the finger at someone else, especially when their task completion impacts your own deadlines. This type of thinking quickly derails a project as one missed deadline leads to more and more until no one is working efficiently.

It’s common for people within project teams to distance themselves to their specific bubble of responsibility, disrupting team cohesion with silo working that creates a jumble of little tasks the project manager needs to puzzle back into the big picture.

To avoid these issues, it’s important to set up roles up front, with clear goals and outcomes, whilst explaining how that fits into the bigger picture and impacts others in the team. When each person understands how what they do affects another, and there are communication channels in place to keep everyone talking, you’ll ensure you team can help each other succeed rather than tearing each other down to create a group sense of accountability, avoiding the blame game.  

MHR’s project teams clearly define where project responsibilities lie when they enter a new partnership, so that the organisation can work on their implementation and change management internally whilst MHR’s experts puts the software in place.

Planning is key!

Implementations commonly hit a few hiccups along the road, but by following these steps your organisation can avoid major disruptions. 

So, next time you’re planning an implementation of a brand-new product, software or system – don’t despair! Plan, plan and plan some more.  

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Simon Himsworth

Simon Himsworth is the Professional Services Director at MHR and is passionate about leading, implementing and effecting change

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