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12/01/2008

Take it in Phases

This is another post in our series on Strategies for Successful Project Management Software Implementations. The following were previous posts in this series:

Planning: Another Key Strategy
Tackling Project Management Skills
Project Management Skills and Project Management Software
Implementing Project Management Software: Common Strategies


Another successful strategy that I have personally seen is to take your implementation in phases.

A common phenomenon in really any type of software implementation is "it's gotta do this-itis". People get very wrapped up in everything that the software MUST do for it to be beneficial. Never mind that they have absolutely nothing today and everything is done via pen, paper, and email. I suppose it is quite natural. After all, it truly can be an opportunity to expand the efficiency and competitiveness of an organization. But the key words there are "can be". Like anything else it must be managed correctly.

If you are familiar with project management, you have hard of the triple constraint on any project: time, cost, and scope. By adding all of these "must haves" to your project management software implementation, you are adding what? Scope, of course. Which means it will take more time and cost you more in terms of actual dollar cost or the cost of time. Not to mention the increased risk by adding complexity to the project.

So what to do? All of these "must haves" may in fact be beneficial. And there may be a minimum set of functionality that is required (although I would often argue that the threshold is lower than most people think).

The answer is phases. You have a short term and a long term plan. The key is that you don't try and do everything at once. That allows you to get a quick bang for the buck, get everyone comfortable, establish fundamental processes, and validate that your approach works in the first place.

For example, you may start off with a simple phase one whose objective is to get all active projects into the system, and train key personnel on how to create projects and associated schedules. That's it. After that, you may train others on how to update their status or, if you need to track time, how to add time spent on projects. After that, you may focus on making this truly a strategic repository by gradually adding complexity: documents, issues, risks, costs, etc. based on what your organization needs.

However you do it, the phased approach, wherever possible, works wonders. It provides some immediate benefit, enables the recognition of that benefit much quicker, and it simply isn't as scary to a user base that may be skittish about doing something new.

I'll be willing to bet that you will be surprised what you have accomplished in six months, as opposed to the organization that tries to do everything at once.

What has your experience been?




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