The launch date is here; the mega-data-wotsit system is finally ready for your users; the project is done! Yet, in reality there’s always lots more work to do to ensure the ongoing success of a project, which can sometimes be overlooked over time as attention moves on to the ‘next big project’. Our Client Director and account management mastermind James Culling shares some pointers for long-term project success:
1. Appoint a key contact. Your project manager from the launch phase may continue to have the ‘owner’ role for the immediate short term, but who’s the most appropriate person after that? Often it makes sense to appoint someone who is close to the users (both in terms of understanding the strategy, and where they sit!) It can also be helpful to choose someone with an eye for the technical detail too: this can be really useful for any back and forth with the system’s supplier. Most importantly of all, make sure that there IS an appointed key contact to oversee the ongoing success of the project.
2. Be prepared for some issues. Hopefully, your project involved all the right people from the start: requirements gathering and system testing are obvious moments when you need to reach out to your end users. However, especially when replacing an older system, users may resist the change or raise unexpected obstacles to ‘switching over’. Even when ready to embrace the new, it can still be stressful getting familiar with a different way of doing things. These change issues may be frustrating, but they can be worked through so long as appropriate support is in place.
3. Keep talking to your users. The ongoing effort of communication and advocacy work post-launch should not be under-estimated! It’s important to build awareness and usage of a new system through, for example, training sessions, internal demonstrations to key staff, and supporting materials like intranet user guides. The setting up of an internal user group that meets regularly can also be a very good way to gather feedback and review progress. There can be a fair amount of work for someone to take on here to manage all of this, but it definitely makes a huge difference.
4. Treat further changes like mini-projects. As users adopt a new system, requests for new features and enhancements will inevitably follow. With that in mind, it’s helpful if your chosen key contact is good at explaining any issues and documenting new requests. To complement this, a good supplier will have a clear and formal process for managing your change requests, from requirements capture through to costing, implementation and release.
5. Keep an eye on your ROI. Finally, it’s essential not to lose sight of the original aims for making a Return on Investment. Are the users finding the time to use the system in the ways it was intended? Is the system making it easy for them to do what they need to do? And, are the end results as good as expected? Aside from supporting the bottom line, keeping an eye on the original business aims also helps to provide the project with ongoing focus, and to motivate users to get the best out of it.