While organisations are investing in technology more than ever before — Gartner expects global spending to hit $3.9 trillion by the end of 2021 — returns aren’t a given.

From getting the technicalities and logistics right to winning over key stakeholders, implementing new technology is a complex undertaking. And even seemingly minor issues can make the process trickier than it has to be. 

So where can tech implementation go wrong?

And what can you do to make sure the project stays on track?

In this post, we’ll look at 6 critical mistakes that can derail your project and the steps you can take to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Losing sight of your goals

Modern enterprise software platforms are highly customisable by design. Fundipedia, for instance, lets you create your own custom data models, feeds, rules, and workflows. And it can connect to any third party system via an API.

But while customisation opens up all sorts of possibilities, it also makes it easier to get side-tracked. 

Getting excited about a new platform’s capabilities is a good thing. A project has a much better chance of succeeding when stakeholders believe it’ll bring about positive change. 

The flipside is that people can get carried away and start adding more and more requirements to the scheme of work. 

Inevitably, different departments will have competing priorities. So the situation can become political. 

More to the point, every additional request increases the project’s complexity. Which can delay the delivery schedule or bring the project to a standstill. 

With this in mind, it’s important to have systems in place to ensure you don’t lose focus.

You should set clear, measurable goals before the project begins. What, specifically, are you aiming to achieve? And what does success look like?

It’s also good practice to keep a written record of all change requests and have a framework for prioritising them. 

For example, is a particular feature necessary for achieving your goals? And what impact will it have on delivery? How much time and effort does implementing it require? 

The key is to control scope and be objective about scope creep, so nobody can take it personally if their request isn’t tackled straight away. 

Mistake #2: Not factoring vendor onboarding into the delivery timeline

You may be itching to get started. But the project can’t kick off without the procurement team’s and legal’s say-so. 

It’s worth noting that, nine times out of ten, the buck gets passed to legal when things go wrong. Which is why they go to such great pains to make sure all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed. 

If you operate in a regulated industry — for example, you’re a financial services firm that’ll be using software for a function the Financial Conduct Authority considers ‘critical’ — you’ll also have to make sure the vendor and their software follow the applicable regulations. Which will involve rigorous due diligence, including thorough security assessments.

These procedures can have a significant impact on the delivery schedule. So it’s crucial to take them into consideration when putting your implementation plan together. 

It’s also a good idea to talk to your vendor through the onboarding requirements ahead of time so they can prepare, and to kickstart due diligence processes as early on as possible. An early start and fewer surprises mean you can get to work sooner. 

Mistake #3: Not communicating consistently

Of course, having agreed on the scope and put together an implementation plan is only the start. 

Once you’ve agreed on a vision with your vendor, you have to work together to see it through. 

The amount of input your vendor will need from you will depend on the project’s nature, size, and scale. 

That said, ensuring you’re on the same page every step of the way is key. 

For this reason, it’s important to set time aside for regular catch-ups and status updates. This will allow you to evaluate progress, plan ahead, and tackle any issues before they spiral out of control.

Mistake #4: Neglecting contingencies

Project governance aside, the vendor’s implementation team will also need practical input. 

Subject-matter experts may need to weigh in to ensure the system is configured properly. Or data owners may have to provide access and explain the current document hierarchy and handling procedures. 

Key staff members can become unavailable for reasons that are completely out of your control. Case in point, the Covid-19 pandemic has created huge resourcing issues, because the staff has either had difficulty performing certain tasks from home, or they’ve been ill or taking care of ill relatives. 

But even under normal circumstances, it’s worth keeping in mind that any work on the project is an additional task on your staff’s already lengthy to-do lists. This is why it’s important to make sure you have the right resources in place. 

At Fundipedia, we always suggest a two-pronged approach. 

Firstly, could you move staff around temporarily to augment the teams that will be involved in the implementation?

At the same time, it’s also a good idea to speak to your vendor’s implementation team to see whether they could bring additional people on board at short notice should the need arise. 

Mistake #5: Assuming your new platform can fix data quality issues

This may seem counter-intuitive, especially if the aim of the project is to create a golden source of data. Or to automate and improve data management.

But while technology can indeed help you collect, verify, and organise your data more efficiently and effectively, it’s not a silver bullet. 

As the old adage goes: garbage in, garbage out. To deliver good results, software — including AI-powered software — must be set up and configured correctly. With this in mind, your implementation team should have access to somebody who can explain the current state of your data. 

For best results, it’s worth doing the following before project kick-off:

  • Set out what data you need to migrate to the new platform
  • Establish who owns this data within your organisation
  • Map out your current processes

With this information to hand, the implementation team can hit the ground running instead of losing precious time trying to get up to speed.

Typically, it’s also a good idea to keep your existing processes as they are as much as possible during the first phase of the project. This keeps the focus on delivering the software, instead of process change and remapping. 

Mistake #6: Underestimating the learning curve

It goes without saying, but whether your project succeeds or fails ultimately depends on one thing. 

Will your end-users use the new platform? 

Or will they slide back into old habits?

Getting used to a new way of doing things can be psychologically hard, especially if you’ve been doing things a certain way for many years. 

But poor adoption rates can also be symptomatic of other issues:

  • The software doesn’t address your end-user’s real problems or creates new ones they have to work around
  • Inadequate training and support
  • More simply, key team members feel threatened by the technology and fear for their jobs

We’ve already said this, but it bears repeating. A project has a much better chance of succeeding if everyone believes it’ll bring about improvements. For this reason, it’s important to get your stakeholders — including end-users — involved in the project as early as possible, listen to their concerns, and ensure your chosen system actually addresses the real problems. 

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Equally important, you should:

  • Let your end-users know the platform is ready to go live and that it will be the only system you’ll be using from now onwards
  • Make sure everyone has a good grasp of the system’s basic features and functionality
  • Make sure everyone knows who to turn to if they run into issues and need support. Getting comfortable with a new platform will take time, regardless of how intuitive the interface is

Chances are your new technology will also have made certain steps — or even entire workflows — redundant. So now’s the time to take stock of your processes to see if they’re still relevant. 

In tech implementation, prevention is better than cure

It’s an often repeated statistic that 80% of implementation projects either fail or fall short. 

But while issues usually become apparent in the final stages of the process — when end-users are given access to the new platform so they can start getting to grips with it — they often take root much earlier. 

The good news is that you can avoid — or at least minimise — these issues. Provided you have a detailed plan, stay focused on your goals, and communicate clearly and openly with your vendor and stakeholders every step of the way. 

Implementation may be all about the destination. But the smoother your journey is, the more likely you are to arrive in one piece.

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