The four fundamental steps in delivering a successful project

By Russell Knight
19 February 2020

So you’ve been through the arduous task of building a business case and finally selecting that new solution to drive the business forward. The pressure is off, everyone is excited and looking forward to a brighter future. All that is left is to get the system up and running. So far so good – everyone is pulling in the same direction. So why do so many implementation projects run into issues? Delivering late, disappointing users and exceeding budgets?

The simple answer is that any project faces challenges. But there are ways to mitigate risk and to meet or even exceed expectations. Although there are many challenges ahead, having the right people is the key foundation. Putting the right team in place, with the level of knowledge required, can make all the difference.

Experience is key; asking the right questions, understanding the challenges and target operating model are the foundation by which an implementation is engaged. Understanding the client’s requirements at a detailed level helps reduce risk, as well as deliver desired results.

Our experience of delivering projects tells us there are four fundamental steps involved for a successful implementation:

Scope & discovery: The sale is completed and now it is up to the team to put the solution in place – but how? Start by ensuring you have complete understanding of the client’s requirements and expectations. What is the “current state”? How do operations function currently and what are the key frustrations and challenges? This work is often ignored but is critical in building a complete understanding of the requirements, but also in giving reassurance and building trust between the client and supplier teams. It also allows project managers to achieve early wins and build momentum. Investing time in understanding current state will reap dividends later as the project progresses.

Implementation: With the fact-finding done, and the team understanding needs and expectations – what now? The implementation team is responsible for making sure that everything agreed is put in place, but there will be occasions where these requirements change. By solving the client’s problems, being adaptable and undertaking ongoing discovery throughout the project, you give the client peace of mind that you have their needs covered. Which again drives confidence for everyone involved to bring the implementation forward.

Support & training: The target users get a little frustrated, as they are keen to get into the application and see the benefits. However, until key information is in place, the real value of the application is not possible to appreciate. So timing and communication is key. It is important to get to know the client, and fully understand their environment and requirements, and above all else, how they are able to adapt and learn the new tools available to them. Providing specific training to meet the end users’ needs empowers them, and gives them confidence when the implementation is concluded. Educating power users is invaluable.

Transition: Go-live can be scary. At this stage, it is critical to not leave the client feeling left alone. Support is still needed, although this is when you should start to slowly withdraw, in order for the client to become more self-sufficient. Being available before, during and after any transition builds client confidence. Knowledge transfer is not a one-off process, and the implementation team needs to be available to offer guidance, reassurance and advice over an agreed period. Ending this engagement needs to be planned and agreed by both sides with achievable target dates. Support teams need to be prepared as well to ensure a smooth, timely hand-over.

Asking the right questions, understanding the challenges faced previously and knowing where the client wants to get to – this is the very foundation of a successful project . If you can build a close relationship with the client, and benefit from the experience and knowledge of everyone involved, the better chances you have of making that client happy, after go-live and beyond.