Ready, set, go live
So, you’ve completed your software vendor selection process: you wrote down what you needed, the demos are done, the cost and terms have been negotiated, and you’ve signed the contract. Now you’re ready for the vendor to do some training and get ready for go live, while you and your team go about with business as usual, right?
Well, not exactly.
Before the project gets kicked off, you need to assign an internal project manager.
OK fine, so I can pick anyone, right?
That depends. You’ll need someone whose level of experience matches the level of risk involved in the project. The more risk, the more skill required to recognize and mitigate it. Risk increases any time a project involves factors such as multiple areas of the business, internal politics, major process changes, or technical complexity and infrastructural impact.
Wait, aren’t we paying the vendor to manage the project?
You should expect the vendor project manager to manage their own resources and deliverables, respond to support requests, and share best practices. These are necessary, but insufficient, to ensure a successful project. You need an internal individual with explicit authority and responsibility for the kinds of activities the vendor can’t manage for you.
Things Your Vendor Can’t Manage For You
- Internal Resources
The internal PM must identify subject matter experts (SMEs) and ensure enough time is carved out of their day-to-day throughout the duration of the project. Often a project can’t succeed without significant attention given to follow up on tasks, and even escalation to an SME’s manager in severe cases of priority conflict.
Success on many projects requires significant change to an organization’s culture, process and/or structure. The vendor needs to keep the project moving forward, and can’t identify every single change along with a corresponding plan to handle it.
- The Vendor
Someone on your team needs to oversee and monitor the vendor’s activities, deliverables and schedule. When this is done well, the PM also establishes a strong foundation for an ongoing partnership.
- Internal Communication
Your vendor is not going to walk around to every person who hasn’t replied to an email or RSVP’d to a meeting. They won’t (and shouldn’t) have direct access to senior level management to keep a pulse on their concerns and interests. They also won’t (and also shouldn’t) follow up with every individual contributor who needs to provide important details and feedback about a step in a current state process.
- Internal Authority and Follow Through
In addition to internal tracking and information gathering, the internal PM must keep an eye out for, and follow up on, any signs that stakeholder buy-in may be lacking. The vendor may think a meeting went great, but an internal PM knows stakeholders well enough to notice non-verbals that could mean decreased confidence or disagreement on where the project is headed.
It Takes Two
A great professional services partner can make all the difference in the world when it comes to ensuring ROI on your capital investments in software. But be realistic about what’s inside and outside of their control. A strong internal project manager will go a long way to maximizing the impact of your vendor’s efforts on your bottom line. That person will also have the wherewithal to think the software implementation in continuity with other projected changes in your operations, like a redesigned or brand-new distribution center.