Published on 2014/01/31

Five Ways to Avoid Implementation Roadblocks

Five Ways to Avoid Implementation Roadblocks
Change management is critical to the success of new partnerships that require major institutional adaptations.
When implementing a complex enterprise software system or embarking on a massive change management project, a true partnership with the technology vendor is paramount. While it may sound simple, the reality is, too often, higher education institutions get ahead of themselves, jumping into new systems their staff is not ready to accept or that require more business process changes than they’ve prepared for. Addressing these hurdles is the responsibility of both the institution and the vendor, and its success depends on a collaborative relationship.

Take CRM (constituent relationship management) systems, for example, which automate relationship management processes for engaging with all constituents: prospective and enrolled students, alumni, donors, guidance counselors and so on. Higher education institutions seek the holy grail of CRM that spans the entire student lifecycle. However, they may lack the internal resources, budget and/or insight into change management processes to achieve that lofty goal all at once. As a result, one of the most important roles a true partner can play is to help them tackle CRM with a phased approach that matches the pace and scope of implementation they’re ready for.

Whether you’re transitioning to a new CRM, overhauling your student information system (SIS) or implementing a new email system, below are critical success factors for overcoming potential roadblocks so you can enjoy a successful implementation.

1. Ensure Executive Sponsorship and Buy-In Across Departments

To ensure change management goes smoothly, identify a clear sponsor of the project – not in name only, but someone who will remain engaged throughout the life of the project. In addition, gather all decision makers in the same room — for example, in the case of CRM, this would include admissions and enrollment, IT, student services, etc. — to articulate the project benefits and ensure imminent change is understood and accepted. After all, the project is more than just the individual and, without buy-in, you’ll be running an uphill battle with naysayers about new technology and processes. Finally, in the case of management transition, “rinse and repeat” these steps to steer clear of project abandonment and maintain momentum.

2. Objectively Evaluate Business Processes

Implementing technology at the same time that you’re discussing business processes is a recipe for disaster, so plan ahead. A good partner will help you scrutinize existing business processes from the earliest days of implementation, but be prepared to look under rugs you’ve been reluctant to lift. A good partner will also serve as your guide in designing new business processes that are painless to adopt and that exploit the capacities of the technology system. Remember that technology should support, not govern, business processes.

3. Set Realistic Expectations and Clearly Define Success

Expectations and clear success definitions are critical to support widespread adoption without overwhelming users and approach implementation and automation in steps. For example, with a system like CRM, evaluate what tasks to automate right out of the gate versus what can be expanded on in a month, in six weeks, in a year.

Effective partnerships come to life when you determine what will make the project successful from the moment you engage: your overall strategy; what ideas/innovations/technology systems you have to fulfill these goals; what metrics you need to measure the success of these ideas; what data you need to track those metrics, etc.

4. Understand requirements

Document and share with your partner your current state and vision. For example, in the case of CRM, this may include:

  • Outreach Strategy: what constituents do you target and how?
  • Communications Strategy: are email campaigns targeted to specific audiences? Do you even have an email campaign?
  • Manual Processes: what is conducted on external spreadsheets that you might like to automate?
  • Admissions Pipeline Strategy: what are your admissions status fields and do you have a conversion strategy for different stages?
  • Application Tracking: how do you track the application process, required documents, etc. and engage your audience with the school?
  • Streamlining/Standardization: where are opportunities for improvement, e.g. does your admissions office currently have multiple applications that can be streamlined into one?

If not well-defined, enterprise software implementations can become complex, so start with the low-hanging fruit and agree to a clear scope of work. It’s important to take “small bites” rather than eat the whole cookie all at once  so that each win gains momentum, and momentum creates traction. By establishing a strong technology foundation together with a trusted partner, your enterprise system can effectively support expansion plans when you’re ready to scale and evolve.

5. Establish Dedicated Organization around the Project

The vendor can only go so far without dedicated resources to support an enterprise implementation. Having at least a part-time — but preferably, full-time — project manager on board separates successful projects from failed ones. A successful project manager is part organizer, delegator, strategic thinker and task-master, but above all, always a positive advocate for change.

Conclusion

When implementing or overhauling a major software system, change management is incredibly important and requires a true partnership between partner and client. With effective planning, a candid evaluation of business processes, scope and goals, as well as a phased approach to implementation, institutions can avoid the roadblocks that too often disrupt technology implementations. Choose an experienced partner as your guide so you can achieve a series of successes and set the stage for continued wins that support widespread adoption and ease of use, while driving tangible business value.

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Readers Comments

Eugene Partnoy 2014/01/31 at 10:41 am

I would add that the institution should also build in extra time for full implementation and be flexible with the timeline overall. I say this because I often see projects calculated down to the last minute. That level of detail and high expectations leave no room for any errors that will inevitably occur on any project that’s complex.

RF 2014/02/01 at 11:57 am

One way to get the objective evaluation Satin talks about is to use external consultants to go through your business processes and identify work duplication, inefficiencies, gaps and opportunities. More often than not, they’re able to find something that even the most careful, introspective institution will miss. There are too many cases where institutions have said to me, “That’s how we’ve always done it” in response to a question about a particular process or practice. A good consultant will be able to take that and say, “Yes, but … ” and then find a solution that incorporates their tradition with greater efficiency.

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