Increase Your Probability for a Successful Implementation
You can take the best DM/CEM tools in the world and destroy their business value with a poor implementation process. So, what steps can you take to ensure that your implementation project will succeed?
In an earlier post, I described a new maturity model for technology implementation. This model is based on the concept of “perspective” as defined by Robert Kegan, a Harvard professor known for his theories of human development. In this new maturity model, I defined three different “perspectives” – technological, transactional, and transformational. This model can help you to predict which organizations will struggle with implementation and why, and also help you to identify steps you can take to help your project succeed.
Organizations that operate on the technological level often fail to deliver business value. With this perspective, the primary focus is on technical knowledge and outputs, and the definition of value is conformance to methodology standards, not the creation of business value. Individuals with this perspective are strongly concerned about compromising quality standards, and they typically struggle to adapt their methods to others’ needs. These organizations will frequently struggle to define and address both functional and business requirements.
Organizations that operate on the transactional level will typically do a better job of defining requirements. With this perspective, the primary focus is to satisfy others’ priorities, especially clients’ priorities. The challenge at this level comes when the clients cannot agree among themselves about the functional requirements or business goals or project success measures. Individuals with this perspective are strongly concerned with pleasing others and they may fear challenging their authority figures. As a result, these organizations can be filled with people who are frozen by competing demands, so they often understand the requirements but fail to deliver because they can’t manage the stakeholders.
Organizations that operate on the transformational level will typically do the most effective job of delivering business value. With this perspective, the primary focus is to achieve organization results, even when they conflict with the individual demands of selected people. Individuals with this perspective and skills can have what people often refer to as “difficult” conversations including surfacing and resolving conflicts over requirements and goals, managing off-track performance with vendors and even clients, and anticipating potential roadblocks that often derail projects.
Most people and their organizations operate at the transactional level, trapped by the conditioning, messages, and reinforcement that keep them focused on pleasing authority figures, even at the expense of risking organizational performance. If you are charged with leading a technology implementation project, here are a few steps you can take to increase the probability of a successful implementation.
- Assess the transformation capability of your vendor partner – Even though you’re not likely to discover an entire organization operating at this level, it’s absolutely critical to make sure you have at least one person in an influential role who has this perspective. Without such a person, you will be responsible to identify and execute all the difficult conversations, in both your organizations. In addition, you won’t have anyone who can help you anticipate and avoid preventable problems.
- Surface and resolve relevant conflicts – Most people have been conditioned to believe that conflict is bad and even dangerous. In reality, with the right perspective, you learn that conflict is your best friend. Conflict is the most reliable marker of commitment issues. Conflict warns you when there is a land mine ahead that you need to address before it blows up your project. Whenever you find a relevant conflicts – over project goals, system functionality, resource allocation, performance measures, etc. – make sure that you surface it, respect the views of all the parties, and then find a resolution that builds commitment.
- Define the business impact of the project – This step may not be as obvious as it seems. Far too often, these projects are still run as a “technology” implementation, with the goal of delivering the expected functionality. To succeed, you must raise the questions of expected business results and how the tools will deliver those expected results. Sometimes this “causal path” is not clear, but your success will often depend on asking and answering this questions.
- Manage the performance of ALL stakeholders – And yes, I include managing clients as a part of this step. I have seen too many projects have a success launch yet ultimately fail to deliver. Transformation leaders recognize the need to talk about performance with all the stakeholders, and they also have the skills to communicate the natural consequences of avoiding performance.