A Few Tips Toward Successful Enterprise Software Implementations
by Joe Rammelsberg, PMP
Throughout my career I've enjoyed implementing software/solutions at the enterprise level for organizations ranging from Fortune 25 giants to boutique eRetailers. There's much to be gained from each implementation as few are ever alike. This post isn't going to speak to how Drupal saved the Universe (it did and continues to do so), but rather how a recent implementation has enlightened me to a few keys to success for which any implementation team may employ.
Not so long ago I had the pleasure of leading an implementation team through one of the most complex, exposed, and aggressive projects of my career. It wasn't always pretty (at times it was downright DURDY), but in the end what we delivered was a beautiful product to a very delighted client. What follows are a few takeaways that I'd like to pass along to the community (or anyone interested).
- Exploit your expert(s). It's no secret that specializations exist within Drupal (most software is specialized in some way or another). Through this recent implementation, I was fortunate enough to work with more than one Senior Level Drupalist. This proved to be critical during situations where we were faced with challenges that were seemingly impossible to overcome, and the Drupal experts on my team proved hero status on more than one occasion. Recognizing that I'm referencing Drupalists as the experts from the project I was recently a part of, it goes without saying that expertise is software agnostic. Identify your experts and make great use of them.
- Show some humility. As stated above, we had a few cooks in the kitchen. This, however, was never a problem - each of the cooks recognized when they had reached their limitations for any given challenge. On numerous occasions, we all reached a place where we had to rely on another to complete the mission. Never let your own ambition, ego, etc. overshadow the project team's potential. Sadly, this is something I've seen on more than one occasion. Humility and honesty will always yield a better working relationship amongst the project team as well as with your clients.
- Be Flexible. Have you ever implemented a project for which you didn't author the SOW? Have you ever read that SOW and wondered "Wait. What?" or "What, exactly, are we supposed to do here?" Have you ever laughed out loud after reading a SOW? If yes to any, you're not alone (it makes two of us). Those are always my initial reactions when reading a SOW for the first time knowing that I'm responsible for delivering and having not authored its contents. That said, irrespective of your development methodology, willingness to be flexible is paramount to any complex project. You may author requirements to the T or take an Agile approach - regardless, complex projects yield changes in flight. Enter (wait for it)... flexibility. Be advised, however, that this flexibility has limitations - which leads directly to my next two points.
- Don't forget your discipline. Being flexible doesn't mean carte blanche to throw all process and discipline out the window. You must still hold daily scrums. You must reconcile and report project vitals on a frequent basis. You must still conduct product reviews and gain acceptance. You must still hold people accountable. You must still deliver the product expected. On time. Within Budget. Etcetera. If anything... the more flexibility necessary, the more important it is to stay disciplined and maintain process.
- Exercise your Authority. Remember who you are. Your client hired you for a reason - likely because you provide a service, subject matter expertise, or leadership which they cannot achieve on their own - and VERY likely not out of haste or desperation (how long was that sales cycle?). That said, you are hereby authorized to walk with a little swagger throughout your project. Your client will appreciate it and will respect you for it.
So that's it? That's all it takes to ensure successful delivery of complex enterprise implementations? Ummm.... No. But, I'm convinced that there's a way to consistently set yourself up for success rather than failure. I, humbly (see what I did just there?), recognize that many projects fail before they begin. But... I've also learned that success can be achieved if you let it, irrespective of the circumstances. And hopefully by employing these tips, success may be achieved somewhat organically.
Best of luck.