To Implement Technology is always critical for the Business to achieve the desired outcome and resolve business problems. Have you any experience involved in or implemented an Information Technology (IT) project in your own organization that achieved less than successful or failed? If so, you are not alone. When embarking on an IT Implementation Project, many organizations achieve less than the expected results.
Why is this the case? Ok, there are many numerous factors that contribute to the perceived, as well as actual, success or failure of an IT Project. We will explore some of the Key Critical Success Factors (CSFs) on how to implement Technology and why they are important.
Critical Success Factors are the essential areas of activities where you must be performed well. If you are to achieve the mission, objectives, or goals for your business. The advantages of identifying CSFs are that they are simple to understand, help focus attention on significant issues, are easy to monitor, and can be used in concert with Applications Implementation Methodologies.
Identifying and monitoring CSFs is especially important, as they allow the implementation teams to focus their efforts on building their capabilities to meet these CSFs. They allow the team to decide whether it has the capability to build the requirements necessary to be successful.
With the identification of your implementation-critical success factors prior to launching or initiating a project, you can create a common point of reference that can help you direct and measure the success of your implementation IT Projects.
Top 10 Critical Success Factors to Implement Technology Solutions
Below are the 10 Things You Need to Know About Implement Technology to get successful outcomes from Technology Investments.
These CSFs are not listed in any specific order, because you should believe that all play a key vital role in helping an organization to execute successful projects. You can follow these Top-Ten Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to implement Technology Successfully.
1. The business should provide Effective Sponsorship
Identification and Engagement of the sponsor(s) should be early in the project initiation and planning phase as possible. Ideally, you should have a key sponsor for each area of the business that will be impacted. This should provide full representation from all areas of the organization at the highest level of the project. Sponsors have two vital functions within a project.
- The First Function is to provide strategic direction and business insight on Critical Success Factors to implement technology projects to ensure the project is delivering the value that was anticipated based on the accepted business case.
Read More to implement Successful Projects… 21 Project Management Best Practices
- The second function is to promote the project and to ensure that the contractual obligations and deliverables of the project are realized. You should have effective sponsorship, the sponsors must be engaged and kept informed of the project’s progress.
Depending on the size, complexity, and duration of the project, the sponsors should meet with the project management team at least monthly; this is typically known as the Steering Committee Meeting. If a project is of shorter duration or is in a critical phase where issues need to be escalated and addressed quickly, the steering committee should meet more frequently.
How to be an effective Sponsor?
- To be an effective sponsor, the individual must be engaged and supportive of the project and its goals and objectives. The sponsor should be open and willing to listen to all opinions and then help drive decision making.
- An effective sponsor must also model the way for the project team and support the long-term vision and objectives.
- One key aspect of a sponsor’s job is to help to resolve issues for projects that have cross-functional impacts where the decisions across teams cannot be made internally.
- Good sponsors look at the big picture and long-term strategy and vision of the company to help the project teams make the correct long-term business decisions.
- Without effective sponsorship, a project can veer off track and end up not meeting its original goals and objectives, resulting in an unsuccessful / failed project.
2. Selection of Dedicated & Experienced Project Team
Why is selecting a dedicated and experienced project team a critical success factor? Let us take a look at why a dedicated team is important to implement the technology.
- When you do not assign key resources to a project full time, other day-to-day activities end up taking away valuable time from the resource, which can significantly impact the project timeline and budget.
- When other job-related activities or responsibilities interfere, the resource may lose focus or become engaged in decisions or behavior that can be counterproductive to the goals of the project. You should assign Key project team members 100 percent dedicatedly to project activities.
Organizations also tend to fall short in the assignment of experienced resources to projects. It is difficult for you as project lead and organizations to reconcile pulling strong, experienced resources from their daily business, but this is a vital component for a successful project.
A successful project requires a project team that has a strong understanding of the business’s needs and resources and that can assist in making and driving the right process decisions for the organization.
In too many projects, organizations attempt to assign less experienced or more junior resources to these roles. This is fine if done on a limited basis, but it is extremely important to have strong, experienced resources in key positions of the project to significantly increase the likelihood that the organization’s long-term goals are achieved.
3. Establish Project Infrastructure
There are several key elements of the project infrastructure that need to be established early in the scoping and planning phase of a project. These include the development of a Project Charter, Work Plan, Issue Management System, Change Management, and status reporting mechanism.
The development of a project charter is an effective project management practice to implement the technology. It is developed as a guide for the project team to help them understand the scope and objectives of the project.
A good charter to Implement Technology
- Define and outline the project’s goals and objectives and constraints.
- Develop an effective and freeze Project Scope.
- Define the roles and responsibilities between the vendor assisting with the implementation and the internal project team.
- Identify Primary Stakeholders to implement the technology.
- Provide guidance on issue management, change management, and status reporting.
- Establish the authority and boundaries of the Internal Project Manager.
The project charters should be shared with every steering committee and project team member. Most organizations do not want to share the contracts related to the project since they sometimes contain confidential data.
However, the project charter should be developed and widely distributed to facilitate a better understanding of the project scope and governance guidelines to implement the technology.
The work plan, issue management system, change management system, and status reporting are all key interrelated components of the project governance structure.
The project work plan is used to communicate and track progress against the key milestones of your project so the team has visibility into whether the project is on track or at risk of not meeting any of the key dates.
Using the work plan with key dependencies, you can monitor the potential impact a missed or delayed milestone would have on downstream milestones. Issue management is an essential process that all team members should understand.
The most successful projects encourage team members to document potential issues as early as possible so that project management has visibility into these items and can start determining how to address them. As for the change management system, it is tightly integrated with managing scope, which we will discuss in more detail shortly.
It is imperative to have the change management system documented so the team understands what the process will be to both add and remove the scope. Change management is critical since it could have an impact on resources, timeline, or budget of a project.
Any time the scope of a project is changed, all parties should understand the overall project impact. The other governance component that is important to have defined is the status reporting process.
The general process is to have weekly status reporting by the key process streams to provide project management visibility into the overall project status, how each team is tracking against the project work plan and the key milestones, any issues that need to be resolved, and any decisions that have been made.
4. Standardized and Utilize a Well-Established Approach
Why is utilizing a well-established approach a critical component to achieving a successful project? Leveraging a well-established approach should provide the project team with guidelines and a standard structure to follow.
This helps a project to be planned and managed appropriately. Implementing systems is an overly complex process. Therefore, it is critical to use a well-established approach that addresses the people, processes, and technical aspects of the initiative.
5. Address Peoples Issues and their Challenges effectively
How does addressing people’s issues impact the project? A significant component of any project is how the organization’s employees will be affected by the impending changes a project brings to an organization and how well the people are prepared for these changes.
When an organization ignores or does not address the people issues, employees can become negative, and some even go as far as to attempt to undermine the project.
It is inevitable that rumors will start to circulate when employees become concerned about what the future may hold for them. This ties in nicely with one of the other critical success factors and effective communication to project teams and stakeholders is critically important to address the peoples.
When project leadership and sponsors address people’s issues, there are multiple areas that end up being positively influenced, such as overall team morale, resource interest in the project, and the project teams’ support of the project to implement the technology programs.
6. Effective Stakeholder Communication
There are multiple types of communication that should be considered when you are developing a communication strategy. There is project-level communication, organizational communication, as well as external communication requirements for suppliers and customers.
Communication is essential to keep everyone involved in the project informed of what is going on and for the team to be able to coordinate and take appropriate action. Communication is also fundamental to the organization to start building awareness of and buy-in to the impending organizational changes.
When communication is not thought through and executed properly, it can lead to disgruntled employees. This can then cause resources to have the perception that the project will not be successful, which can unfortunately turn into reality.
When structuring the overall communication strategy, it is important to remember that not everyone retains and absorbs information in the same way; therefore, you should always plan on communicating critical messages via multiple formats and/or media, such as e-mail, phone messages, or even town hall–type meetings.
7. Effective Scope Management
As you may already be aware, the managing scope can make or break a project and is essential to control throughout the entire project lifecycle. Many times, organizations find it easy to just keep adding in some small, but potentially important, functionality to a project. These small additions can add up and tend to have a harmful effect on both the project timeline and the budget.
One of the main activities in scope management is ensuring the entire project team is aware of the defined scope of the project. This scope needs to be continually reinforced and part of the onboarding process for any new team member. (Managing scope is a good application for the project charter we discussed earlier.)
The second concept all project team members need to understand is how scope management ties in with the change control process. In many projects, you will find that some scope items and their impact may need to be escalated to the sponsors of the project due to the budget or timeline impact of the scope change.
8. Establish a Supportive & Collaborative Culture
A supportive culture encourages the team to discuss or raise potential issues early in the project lifecycle. When team members feel comfortable bringing up potential risks or issues, project management can take corrective action or escalate the issue to the steering committee.
When there is not a supportive culture on the project, then the team may feel uncomfortable raising issues to the project management group early enough to allow time to resolve the issue before the project timeline or budget would be impacted.
9. Conduct Periodic Quality Assurance Reviews and Build Project Quality Gates
Conducting periodic quality assurance reviews can help you uncover potential issues early in the project lifecycle. Someone should conduct a quality assurance review not actively involved with the project to provide an independent perspective.
A good review should include interviews not only with the project leader but also with various dedicated project team members to discover potential risk areas and challenges that might need to be addressed and to ascertain what risk mitigations might need to be put in place.
Sometimes issues are at the project leadership level; an effective way to identify this is for the individual performing the quality assurance review to talk with the team members.
Quality assurance reviews should be scheduled at regular intervals for the duration of the project. At a minimum, they should be scheduled no less than once every three months. However, depending on the stage and complexity of the project, you might consider doing quality assurance reviews more frequently.
10. Provide a Stable Technical Environment and Support
When it comes to providing a stable technical environment, there are a couple of questions you should consider before you embark on an IT project:
- Is the technology you are implementing right for the maturity of your IT organization?
- Is the technology supported in house, or do you use a hosting provider?
Why are these important questions to answer?
The following is an example of a project where these questions were not thought through properly and the project ended up being stopped after 14 months. The investment of long hours by the project team and millions of dollars had to be written off.
The organization was doing a package selection and then ultimately the implementation of the package. Although the organization included business process selection criteria and technology criteria, the business criteria were given a much heavier percentage of the ratings than the technology criteria since the tool was to be used by over 1,000 business users.
The package that ended up being selected had the best business process rating but had the lowest technological rating. As a result, the package was rated the best of its competitors and was selected for implementation.
The implementation of the product was planned for 12 months, and the package was to be integrated with the organization’s back-office financial system to maintain master data such as customers, vendors, and items, and for transactional processing.
Although the extent of the integration points was known at the time of the package selection, it was not specifically addressed in the package selection criteria.
When the team began the testing phase of the project, it was quickly discovered that the technical architecture would not support the volume or number of transactions the company was attempting to integrate between it and the back-office product.
After 14 months of trying to resolve the issue, the IT organization did an in-depth study and analysis of the application and determined it was unable to support the organization’s needs.
There are other factors you should consider related to the technology component:
- Have at least one database administrator on-site as part of your project.
- If third parties host your environments, ensure that your on-site development team has the required access to the database and the applications.
- If your environment is hosted, make sure your service-level agreements with the outsourcer are sufficient for the project.
Many organizations fail to take these points into consideration during the planning phase of the project. Outsourcers frequently leverage the same production support resources to support a new project.
As a result, production issues can take away resources from project-related issues. This has been known to cause significant delays to a project that end up impacting the project timeline and budget.
As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, all these criteria form an integral part of a successful project. Failing to incorporate even one of these components into the structure of your project could lead to a less than successful implementation.