Congratulations! You’ve just been appointed the Project Sponsor for your
organization’s upcoming software implementation/upgrade - now it’s time to select Project Manager. A software implementation or upgrade project can be daunting, even for people who have a strong project management background.
During my years of nonprofit work I have been on both the customer and the vendor side of projects. The following are tips and best practices I learned along the way for making your project effective, efficient and painless as possible.
Choose your Project Manager wisely!
While it may be cost-effective to have an existing staff member manage your project, be mindful of the time constraints a project will have on his or her “real job.” Employee burnout is a risk with any implementation and assigning additional responsibilities to someone who is possibly already overworked is a plan destined to fail.
If you hire from outside the organization, select an individual who will blend in well with your business culture. Just because someone has a PMP or Six Sigma certification does not guarantee a successful project. The nonprofit world can be very different from the corporate world and selecting a candidate that will fit in will make a huge difference. A good candidate understands the organization’s mission as well as the ability to keep a project on track.
Your Project Manager is there to advocate for your organization. I worked on a project several years ago where the customer decided it would be a good idea for the vendor Project Manager to be responsible for both sides of the project - customer side and vendor side. Ultimately, this was a poor decision because there was no one to advocate for the needs of the organization.
Hire your Project Manager BEFORE the project kickoff
Once your Project Manager is in place, review the Statement of Work and any other supporting documentation to ensure he/she understands decisions made during the sales process - including budgeted hours, customizations, reporting needs, etc.
Involve the Project Manager in the selection of your design workgroups, your conversion team and your technical resources. It is important for all members of the project to understand their role in advance. Appoint a member of the executive team to be responsible for the accountability of other staff members in his or her area.
Ensure your Project Manager meets the vendor Project Manager before the project kickoff to establish rapport and manage expectations for both sides.
Meetings, meetings, meetings
A good Project Manager should meet with the internal project team and the vendor Project Manager on a weekly basis to ensure billing hours and invoices are correct and deliverables are on time. A project can be derailed quickly if deadlines are not met.
Schedule monthly calls with the internal project team and the project leadership for the vendor. Communication is a key factor in the success of any project, and while I’m not a big fan of “meetings for the sake of meetings”, periodic check-ins can ward off any future surprises.
Insist that your Project Manager sit in on design sessions, conversion mappings and functional specification discussions with the vendor resources. It is imperative that your Project Manager understand the software - even if he/she has no prior experience.
A few parting thoughts about projects in general...
If your organization is not happy with a resource the vendor provides, including the Project Manager, request a resource change. It happens more often than you might think. Remember, the success of the project is ultimately your responsibility and you are paying for it!
Review the Project Plan with the vendor weekly and make sure your organization as well as the vendor are meeting project deadlines. Resource turnover can be an issue if dates are moved; consultants are accustomed to having multiple projects and a change in one date can gravely impact schedules and onsite visits.
Last and most important...celebrate the milestones in your project and keep your
staff informed. Fear of the unknown runs rampant in any new implementation and the more you communicate, the less scary it will seem. On my first day as a Project Manager, a VP asked me what I thought the biggest key to success was in all the projects I had worked on. My answer was “parties”! She looked shocked until I told her that the customer Project Sponsor on the the most successful project I was ever a part of celebrated every single milestone of a 2+ year project . Sometimes it was just an update for the entire staff and the consultants, with coffee and bagels, but those gatherings kept the lines of communication open and made the employees feel valued.
If you'd like to discuss your project, please contact us today or to learn more about Brightvine, and take advantage of a complimentary, no obligation assessment, contact Stacey Segal today via email or phone: (843) 900-4287.