A recent Gartner report has found that 3 out of every 4 ERP undertakings fail. That’s a pretty high rate of failure for such a time- and money-dependent venture. And with such an emphasis being put on the need to be agile and flexible in order to be successful in today’s business climate, you’d think more companies would have it figured out.
As it turns out, unfortunately, there’s a large swath of factors that may impede the adoption of a new operation in a business. A client can have unrealistic expectations or timelines, be unaware of expenses, lack effective communication, suffer from executive-level commitment—the list goes on and on.
The good news is, as a project manager, you really have all the power to take the reins and set the stage for a successful and seamless implementation. Take into consideration these characteristics that define a successful project manager in order to crush your next project.
Set the right expectations by being an advisor, not just an implementer.
As a project manager, it can be exciting to start up a new implementation. You are thrilled for the prospect of driving productivity, efficiency, and value into the organization—however, you also need to be incredibly cognizant of things you’re promising and the steps you’re taking to get there.
It’s important to think incrementally and set realistic expectations with the client. Develop a schedule, but be sure to pad time around that schedule to minimize difficult deadlines. Set milestones and achievements for everyone to look forward to. Provide regular updates, presentations, and demos to stakeholders to preserve transparency.
Ultimately, you are the expert in the field, and your clients are going to look up to you to be able to deliver positive results in a timely manner. But they also want you to be collaborative and hear what they have to say. Do yourself a favor from the get go and understand what you are capable of.
Educate the client.
The late Steve Jobs famously said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” While you don’t have to think of your project management position as being on the same tier of designing cutting edge technology, your clients are still going to be looking to you as the resource in a field they are unfamiliar with.
On the outset of an implementation, your client is certain to steep you in the business practices and processes that they have adopted before you arrived. At this juncture, it is your job to listen closely and begin to make connections between their problems and your solution.
Then it is time for you to do what you do best: educate. As stated above, you are not there simply to implement a solution and walk away—you are there to advise and inform as well as make sure they have the tools in order to improve their practices. Educate them and help them understand why they need to tweak their processes to adopt best standards. Remember, they won’t know what they want or what they need until you give them proof.
Go Agile in your SOW.
You and your client should both understand that not everything in the implementation of software is going to be all rainbows and go exactly according to the plan you laid out. Things will go wrong, other stuff will come up, and expectations will change. It’s important to adopt an Agile SOW.
Being able to swiftly adapt to project roadblocks such as time to completion, cost of services or the scope of the deliverables should be a cornerstone of your ability as a project manager. A good rule of thumb is to reach a halfway point in the project and reassess: are we on time to completion? Are we still within budget? Is the scope of delivery still feasible? If any of these parameters are falling short, work with the client to adjust accordingly.
Develop a phased approach.
Once you have a clear idea of the objective and what you are able to do for them, you should begin to prioritize certain tasks. Some clients are going to expect everything at once, and it’s your job to make a clear definition of which components are an immediate need and which can be viewed as an enhancement of those needs. Let them know this is absolutely out of benefit for their organization and their investment in the project.
Once you have completed phasing in the necessary components, encourage them to test it. Let them get a feel for the platform and tell them what they like and don’t like. From there, you can enter the next phase of fine-tuning the software to meet their specific needs. Again, you’re here to advise and educate—you’re a long-term partner, and you want them to be successful.
As a project manager, you have a lot of responsibility with every job you take on. There is a lot that can stand in your way to seeing a project come to fruition. However, if you set expectations from the start, act as an educator, are flexible with your contract, and deliver improvements in phases, you’ll be poised to secure a successful implementation for your clients every time.