By Tom Yang, Changepoint Sales Engineer
Cha-Ching! To a Project Manager that’s the sound of your organization committing to a new product – knowing that now that the money has been spent it’s time for you to get things in place to support the investment. As with most large business purchases, but especially software, it’s essential you build a solid rollout plan to avoid or quickly address unforeseen obstacles. I know this from firsthand experience as I work side by side with our customers to implement our Changepoint and Daptiv PPM solutions, which in turn are then utilized to facilitate the rollout of many other products. Time and again I’ve witnessed how a Project Manager’s ability to lay the foundation for a new product has been crucial in determining its level of attainable business value. To ensure you’re building a solid structure you’ll want to start with a product implementation plan focused on defining your goals, providing the transparency necessary to keep everyone on the same page and ensuring you’re prepared for any problems that are bound to arise along the way. Sounds simple enough, so here’s how you can get started:
Set SMART Goals
Aligning SMART goals with pre-stated business objectives is the best way to meet major milestones during a product rollout without confusion or major setbacks. Making goals SMART requires them to be: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Therefore, when outlining the organization’s objectives the new product goals should go beyond the vague, “roll out budgeting to the PMO” to the more defined, “enable the PMO to track budgets on a monthly basis for all IT Projects and summarize quarterly.”
Ensuring business objectives are also clearly defined through these SMART goals eliminates any confusion over what your organization is trying to achieve or how they plan to get there. In addition, if an objective isn’t met on time it’s possible to determine exactly where the failure occurred and course correct. For example, perhaps a goal your team was targeting on a monthly basis was too difficult to achieve, but moving it to quarterly made it more realistic.
Tying these goals to timed milestones is key since it allows all teams and levels of management to hold each other accountable. If these milestones are missed (beyond the standard margins of 5%-10%) you’ll know it’s time for either the goals or the timeline to be re-evaluated to account for any delays. One tip to minimize confusion, but keep goals measurable, is to start with time estimates (I.e., It will take two weeks for each module) as opposed to setting actual dates (Module 1 will run from 1/1 – 1/15.). This way if you have to make a shift it’s much simpler for teams to adjust those time frames and you stand less of a chance of mixing up dates.
While implementing SMART goals goes a long way in providing transparency around the product implementation mission, you can’t stop there. It’s crucial that you also work to provide a similar level of clarity to your teams around roles. You can do this in part by clearly identifying the main vendor point of contact for the product purchase, their specific responsibilities and a backup or manager. Ensuring transparency at this stage is key, because the primary contact during the product sales cycle will likely not be the same person assisting your business with all of its deployment needs. Since it is rare to work with the same people on both pre-sales and post-sales efforts you should request a knowledge transfer call that includes all those individuals and your team to make sure everyone is aware of your organization’s needs.
It’s also important to be clear on what responsibilities fall to the product vendor, as well as the scenarios during which it’s likely that they will need to bring in additional resources or send issues that arise to another team, to limit surprises and setbacks. If you fail to define these areas to your teams before rolling out a product it can leave them frustrated as each issue is investigated and resolved slowing down the deployment progress. Here’s an example I’ve experienced:
A vendor I worked with offered and even touted their ability to create “customized grips” for certain products. However, when asked to add them during production it was revealed that the process was actually carried out by a foreign subsidiary, which added three weeks to turnaround time. While in theory, a typical product deployment shouldn’t require extensive additional resources, in those rare cases the vendor should be able to explain them beforehand and you should remember to ask. This helps to limit surprises, and at times keeps the vendor honest. In this example, if my team had been clear on what the immediate vendor could provide as well as the process for getting other needs met we would’ve been able to account for the project delay.
Process Your Problems
Since every problem is unique, the best and often only way to prepare for them is to establish a process that lays out exactly how they should be addressed and who will handle them when they arise. Being prepared with a process for managing problems is critical to keeping a product rollout on track. For example, something as simple as the best method of communication needs to be identified and stated early on. This basic knowledge allows teams to know whether they should email or call to effectively escalate an issue. This process should also dictate when an issue in the product rollout has reached the threshold of being a full blown problem or is actually just a delay that can be accounted for by shifting milestones. Another tip for ensuring you’re prepared for anything is to ask the vendor to walk you through some of the common obstacles they’ve seen in similar deployments, which should give you some insight into what to look out for and the kinds of solutions your product vendor is likely to provide.
Spending the time upfront building out these three elements will go a long way in making your implementation journey less bumpy, which increases the likelihood of a product’s success and ultimately the value it provides to your business.