Kicking-Off an Implementation: What Questions Do You Need to Ask?

There is an element of planning that goes into everything I do. Let’s look at an easy example: travel.

My wife and I can’t show up to the airport and just wing it (pun intended). We need to leave our house by a certain time or we’ll miss our flight. Yes, I’m that guy who shows up 3 hours early because it’s better to be early than late!

To prepare for our trip, we must pack our bags, and our daughters’ bags (can’t forget the baby doll, Nina!) with the items we need for the trip. We can’t forget to purchase airline tickets. And then there are the other million things to double-check:

Did we turn the thermostat down (Dad move)?

Is anyone collecting our mail?

Taking the garbage out to the street?

Watering our plants?

The list could go on and on. Sure, we can be more spontaneous when we reach our destination but planning for our family and home is essential before we embark anywhere.

The importance of planning goes far beyond a single trip. Our family plans meals, childcare, drop-offs and pick-ups for activities, and how we do the holidays. I like to consider myself “the man with the plan” even if that plan is to come up with a plan.

I’ve consulted for several organizations over the years. I can remember being in several different boardrooms and asking the client how they envisioned setting up the project. The response, “We don’t know yet.”

For any project, especially software implementations, organizations need to have a plan in place. New software can create additional workloads for employees for a short period of time, but ideally, it alleviates workloads going forward.

Here are some questions your organization should ask before your next project.

1. What is the problem we are solving?

Companies hire consultants to help them solve problems, plain and simple. And these projects, especially larger scale implementations, can be expensive. If you work at an organization and are curious about what’s important to them, just follow the money. A budget behind an initiative usually highlights its importance.

Because of this, it’s even more essential that both the company and the consultant understand what issue is the central problem that the project is trying to solve. When projects go astray, it’s usually become people are spending their time firefighting other minor issues and not focusing on the main problem. The more you can articulate the problem this project solves, the better.

2. What benefits will this project bring to the organization?

Let your employees and stakeholders know why this project matters and what impact it will have on the business. If the project alleviates that long-standing-I-am-going-to-go-all-Office-Space-on-this-system issue, make sure everyone knows. Employees want to understand how changes impact them, so be clear on the benefits they’ll have as it will make them more invested in the project.

3. Which staff members do we need?

Simply put: whose time and expertise does your organization need to make the project successful? If Sarah is needed and her attention is elsewhere, will she have the bandwidth to complete this project?

Just like a baseball manager checks his lineup and plans a game, organizations need to plan projects in the same way. Set your line up before you take the field.

4. What are the current processes?

Sometimes, it’s not the tool that’s broken. I’ve walked into clients who have created unnecessary processes because they aren’t using the tool correctly. Take the time to walk through how employees do x, y, and z before you dive into a project. You might be surprised to find an easy button or two because the company isn’t utilizing their current software.

5. What benchmarks will we use?

What markers are going to be in place to ensure we are on the path to success? Create check-in dates for milestones at the beginning to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of deadlines. Keep lines of communication open with weekly or bi-weekly check-ins. 

6. How long do we expect this project to take?

Simple enough: when should we complete this project? Before I create the project plan, I ask the client, “When do you want this done by?” I usually follow it up with, “Tomorrow, right?” 

After a good belly laugh, I listen to expectations and dates. Sometimes adding more resources to a problem can speed things up, other times that might not be the case. Setting clear expectations on delivery dates is important for a project. Working backwards from due dates and creating clear tasks with durations allows the team to see if these dates are achievable.

Just like travelling by plane, no one likes delays, but you always get an update of when you’ll arrive at your destination. A good pilot (in my case, being a consulting partner) will provide regular, timely updates like letting the passengers know that turbulence is approaching.

A last word of advice: Engage in over-communicating. Yes, over-communicating. Create communication updates so everyone can see progress without necessarily having to meet. The consistency of these updates can help to soothe any anxieties people may have during the project and allows them to ask questions if they feel some turbulence.

I’m a big believer that planning can and will dictate the success of a project. Take the time to ask and answer the right questions before you invest your budget. 

Want Archetype to help you plan your next project? Contact us today. 

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