While implementing software systems, we can get lot of things done right and we have precious few excuses not to have done some. The investment in software requires in-depth planning and co-ordination. While doing this many people forget one crucial element- “MOMENTUM”.Momentum is that collective feeling that things are moving along – that you’re going to reach your end goal, surpass it, and achieve things… it’s that feeling that everyone knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
And yet we keep losing it. Why?
It is because it’s not a budget line and is not tangible. It’s a feeling, and it is an absolute key to ensuring that implementation is a success. You can have all the project management tools and meetings you like, and you can meet deadlines… but implementation can still fail.
Enthusiasm has to be cultivated
A lot of momentum comes about when people are excited about projects. And as all good marketers know, people only get excited when they have a reason to get excited.
Enthusiasm, for me, starts with involvement and continues with input. Getting the right stakeholders, or ‘product champions’ involved in each area of the implementation, and continually giving them the opportunity to feed into it, will start to foster the enthusiasm you need.
However, enthusiasm can be dampened by continually holding meetings without purpose. And it’s that last word that crystallises what really drives enthusiasm throughout a lengthy project – purpose.
If you remember those three words – involvement, input and purpose – and repeat them to yourself (not to others) throughout the project, you’ll go a long way to establishing momentum.
The foundations have to be right
One discovery I made is that it’s better to write the client’s brief than have the client write it.
Sounds shocking? Not when you think about it.
Warren Butler wrote about it in depth here (he’s referring to us) on his post about CRM implementation – and it’s the first time we’d really seen it through the client’s eyes. What we were doing had established a solid foundation that everyone agreed upon… and writing the brief was the cornerstone.
By holding yourself to your original tender, you’re holding yourself to a number of assumptions that may be wrong. Software or a service provider, if they know their stuff, should seek to know your business inside-out, and should know their own product and service inside-out. Making the two meet is their art.
So establish a loose brief, focused around your objectives, and let the provider write the brief for you. What you end up with, once it is all signed and sealed, is a detailed brief that aims to fulfil the objectives you set out in the original tender.
Momentum comes when everyone is on the same page. It comes when everyone knows what is being done, and what is coming next. Ensuring that the provider of the software writes the brief means that roadblocks are thought of in advance, and removed – and you can hope for a smoother implementation.
Progress must be shared
There are so many milestones along the way – it’s hugely important that they are shared widely among all of your stakeholders, and all of those who are going to be impacted by the implementation.
There’s a host of project management tools that you might be using, and you can use things like Basecamp for reaching out to teams and posting news, at the very least (although I must say Basecamp 2 was better than Basecamp 3).
There’s nothing worse than finding out something has progressed and that you didn’t have a chance to give your feedback, or that you weren’t even sought out. A lack of visibility reduces momentum by creating resentment – or the feeling that the project is being run by a small, insular team.
Take the time, then, to branch out, share news, and seek feedback at different stages. Make it clear when you’re going to do that, and show that you’re listening.
Momentum comes when the reasons are clear
It’s one thing to share progress; it’s another to share meaningful progress.
After all, how can you define progress if you haven’t defined where you were (point A) and where you’re going to be (point B)? If, at some point between A and B, you have moved the goalposts, progress cannot be defined as a straight line, but a curved one which no longer makes sense to people.
Momentum comes when the reason for what you’re doing is understood. That reason is understood in terms of end goals, and the steps required in achieving them. By referring back to them – when presenting progress – you have an anchor point which people can understand.
Any software implementation will have these anchor points, and milestones along the way. Reiterate them.
Be clear about where you are, where you expected to be, and where you’re going to be. Make this the common framework for presenting back to people, and don’t veer from it. Don’t move the goalposts and introduce new milestones, or celebrate fake milestones. You’ll lose confidence, and therefore momentum.
Your implementation will go all the better with common understanding of why you’re doing & what you’re doing? Well, by creating and promoting this framework, you have the foundations for success.
And this comes to encircle enthusiasm. You’ll only retain momentum if you retain people’s enthusiasm, and if you’ve got the right framework for progress. That framework really should come from the vendor – not from you – so make sure they ‘get you’.
Your projects will have much momentum if you look to build enthusiasm for the implementation – and that should carry on beyond go-live and into usage. Ensure a framework, ask for more from your vendor, be clear and consistent and you’ll keep the ball rolling with natural enthusiasm.
Never stop, always improve, and always involve your team.