Round table: 'The challenges and triumphs of delivering complex technology project’
We had a really engaged group of delegates attend our afternoon round table session. The hot topic was transformation, and how organisations go about embarking on associated complex technology projects to deliver change. We discussed the challenges and possible solutions and it was clear most organisations were experiencing similar things.
Key challenges and potential solutions
How do you get a vision to permeate an organisation?
Issues discussed included both how disseminating information downwards and establishing top level buy- in presents considerable risk. We explored where the root causes are cultural, legacy ways of working and/or decision-making hierarchy?
There was a focus on project success hinging on the support and confidence of the senior team. Suggested solutions to this challenge included;
- Ensure the project has an exec level sponsor, introduce catch up meetings outside the regular project meetings.
- Consider project phases that will deliver ‘quick wins’ and encourage the team on towards the ultimate goal through a series of phased successes.
- Consider costing out the ‘opportunities lost’ if you don’t do the project.
- Clear internal communications from the outset of the project are essential to ensure all stakeholders contribute and buy-in, providing you with a full picture of requirements and avoiding the perilous unknowns!
- Make culture change part of the process; provide a clear vision to win the hearts and minds of your whole organisation (don’t bore them with the detail!).
How do we define success?
We discussed what success looks like, to you it may be; ‘we’ve launched an app’, ‘we’ve got a solid, secure, GDPR compliant, single point of truth CRM system’, ‘our website/CMS and CRM are integrated delivering a seamless, personalised experience to our members’ or ‘we’ve grown our membership’, ‘we’ve decreased attrition rates by extending member engagement and loyalty’, ‘we’ve developed and promoted a sound member value proposition or ‘we’ve delivered greater efficiencies’.
Successful business transformation projects are built on the foundations of what success looks like for your organisation. Setting clear objectives for what the project should achieve is essential, having measurable outcomes helps to gauge success, we recommend metrics such as:
- Establishing specific KPIs and CSFs such as ‘increase membership by 5% YOY’ or ‘decrease time to join to X minutes/a 3 step process’.
- It can also include CSFs regarding ease of use of systems by staff. Your ability to measure success can take many forms, encompassing anecdotal evidence such as; ‘it used to be hard to do xxx and now it takes me two minutes’ and workflow process documentation. Change is most effective when it’s centred around people, whether those be your team, stakeholders, volunteers, members or donors. Engaged people is what success looks like.
A strong motivating factor for change is often technology; legacy systems, siloed departmental systems, functionality gaps etc. sometimes its just not in scope to change these, but what can you do?
The technology pain points shared in our round table discussion included; ERP, payment gateways and legacy systems such as Integra. Simon encouraged those at the table to review their systems with the benefit of others perspective, considering the pros and cons of maintaining legacy systems or moving to new technology, and considering where integrating systems, and taking a phased approach can be of benefit.
Other tips for success
Make sure the right person is running the project. An investment in the right Project Manager is a saving in the long run. Projects are often compromised where organisations dilute a team members role with additional responsibilities.
Build a decent 15-25% contingency into the budget. Projects invariably grow as they develop, as knowledge and visibility increases and potential areas for improvements are identified. However good the discovery phase is, it’s worth allowing room for improvement on your initial scope.
If you have senior voices dictating a technical direction, it is always worth digging to the root of the problem they feel requires a technical solution. Requesting more information on the issue and the opportunity to review things, is likely to facilitate a much more appropriate solution to the problem – it might not even be about the tech!