Unfortunately, not all technology and IT implementations succeed. In fact, you may be racking your brain to remember an instance where one actually did! A recent Dynamic Markets survey of 800 IT professionals found that 62 percent of IT projects fail to meet their schedules, and 41 percent failed to deliver the expected business value and ROI. Yet in the face of these statistics, most organizations continue to embark on the process of implementing new systems, applications, and technologies.
This begs the question, what must an organization do to successfully implement new technology?
As we have partnered with clients to help them successfully implement many different types of technologies and systems, we have incorporated several key best practices into the overall solution. In this article, we will present two of these best practices and some practical recommendations you can implement.
Best Practice #1 – Stop thinking that technology implementations are just IT projects, and start thinking of them as people projects.
There’s no doubt that technology implementations are time and resource intensive. They take months/years of planning and preparation, the involvement of many people, and thousands or even millions of dollars to implement. Yet, too often the role that people have in the ultimate success of these projects is left overlooked. In fact, we would argue that the role that people have in the ultimate success of implementations far outweighs all other factors. People matter, plain and simple. If the people expected to use a new technology are unmotivated to use it, uninformed on why it’s important, and inadequately trained, there will be resistance for any new technology.
To achieve success in implementing new technology, it is critical that a strategy for engaging, informing, and training people be given higher priority than it typically receives. In our experience and research, we have found that the budgets allocated to support the people side of implementations are usually around five to ten percent of the total budget. However, research from Baylor University suggests that organizations should be investing ten to fifteen percent of their budgets for change management, communication, and training. This increase in investment has been found to increase an organizations overall chance of a successful implementation to 80%!
Best Practice #2 – Identify and engage an Executive Sponsor throughout the entire project.
Perhaps you have heard this story before. A small team of people (usually Senior Executives) have determined that a new technology or system is required to improve efficiency or reduce operating costs. A budget is set, a solution is purchased, and a small project team of IT and business professionals is assembled and charged with meeting aggressive implementation milestones. Although initially engaged in the process of designing the technology, the senior leader(s) of the organization eventually starts to invest their time and energy into other critical priorities in the organization. As a result, the project team is forced to continue the project with limited executive involvement and authority to make changes required to ensure success. Sound familiar? Sadly, this situation happens far too often in organizations seeking to roll out both small and large technology projects.
Before embarking on a new technology implementation, we recommend that you draft a job description for each role on the project team, including the role of the Executive Sponsor. In developing the role description, it is vital that you focus on three major areas of responsibility for the Executive Sponsor. These include:
- Linking the project to the overall vision of the organization. Leaders plant the seeds of success at project inception. For any implementation to flourish, leadership must provide a solid base by connecting individual effort to your organization’s business objectives.
- Gaining support and communicating status of the project to the workforce. The executive sponsor needs to be visibly supportive of the initiative and explain and reinforce the compelling business purpose for making the change to the new technology. He or she must ensure that all leaders are directly and indirectly aligned around making the implementation a success.
- Removing obstacles and coaching team members. By nature of their role within an organization, Executive Sponsors can help remove roadblocks which hinder success. In addition, they should be willing and able to coach their employees and the project team in order to reinforce right behaviors and correct wrong behaviors.
It’s just plain naive to think that an implementation will go smoothly all on its own. That being said, it certainly doesn’t have to fail! To achieve success, you must be aware of potential icebergs that may be in the waters ahead and take preventive measures so you don’t need those lifeboats.