Several studies have looked at programs and what makes some more successful than others. Almost universally, the conclusion has been that the problem was not with the program itself, but rather with how it was implemented. Many factors can contribute to a successful, or unsuccessful, program delivery. These include the resources, such as budget and staff, that are committed to the program. However, the process used to deliver outcomes to the internal and external customers of your program is also critical, as well as the impacts or outcomes from those deliverables.
Here are six of the most important things you should consider when it comes to program delivery.
1. Know the Objectives
This might seem obvious, but many programs start with a simple idea and very little else. It should be clear what sponsors of the program, as well as all affected stakeholders, want to achieve with the program. It may seem unsexy, but successful project implementation starts with a solid structure. Document these objectives and turn them into actionable KPIs (key performance indicators). You should be able to answer the following questions:
- What does management want to achieve through this program?
- How will it help your internal or external customers?
- How will you evaluate your program and implementation? What measures will you use?
The more specific the answers you solicit, the stronger your chances of successful implementation.
2. Create a Scope Statement
A scope statement takes the objectives and vague outline for the project and turns it into a formal document clearly outlining what the project entails. You’ll need it to inform your team about the project’s objectives and deliverables. It is also useful in ensuring that management and stakeholders clarify their assumptions regarding the project. The scope statement should include timelines, deliverables and any limits or exclusions regarding the project. In short, a scope statement ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding the program and its implementation.
3. Assess Your Team
Careful resource matching can be critical to your success. If you’re implementing new enterprise software, do you have the necessary trainers in place? Do you need to hire people? Do you have a mechanism and the people in place for troubleshooting? Create a list of required skill sets and work from it. Look first at your existing staff. If they can’t cover all of the skills necessary, perhaps with the addition of some skill training, look to hire outside help either on a contract or permanent basis. Identify skill gaps early in the process to ensure a smooth implementation.
Once you have your team in place, leverage their experience and knowledge and create a forum for open discussion and the sharing of ideas. Give ownership of specific aspects of the program to the team members best equipped to handle each particular aspect. Ownership is a natural incentive, and you’ll know that an expert is running each element of the program implementation. Meet frequently as a team to air issues and discuss solutions.
4. Track and Review
Keep an issue log to track all identified problems and solutions. It’s a tedious process but can be incredibly useful from a risk management perspective and also for solving problems later in the implementation process. There are programs available to help you track issues, but you can also use something as simple as a spreadsheet. Provide access to the log to all team members so everyone can contribute to this record keeping.
Track individual delivery schedules for your team members and project deliverables for your team. Review timelines with your team regularly. Update dependent tasks and project schedules as frequently as necessary and communicate changes to management and stakeholders.
5. Communicate Often
There are three essential segments to a communication plan for program implementation. These include communication with management, communication with stakeholders and customers and finally, communication within the project implementation team itself. All are crucial to the program’s successful implementation.
Leverage communication and tracking tools to successfully manage your implementation. Once in place, they’ll provide you with an at a glance look at where the implementation process is. They will also serve as a forum for continuing open communication amongst the team. You’ll be able to keep each team member accountable and abreast of what everyone else is doing. Take the time to celebrate some of the shorter-term implementation deliverables with your team.
Leverage frequent communication with stakeholders and potential customers of the program as a marketing tool. Build anticipation and momentum for the program early on but be sure to keep expectations reasonable. Be sure to communicate the objectives of the program to these customers. They have to understand what is in it for them.
Finally, frequent communication with management and your board of directors is essential. Consider implementing a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly update, depending on the length of the implementation process. This provides a forum to celebrate successes but also quickly communicate any issues or delays and mitigate the frustration that can accompany these problems.
6. Address Obstacles
Address any obstacles to project implementation as quickly as possible. Be proactive in identifying these obstacles and in removing them. Involve your team in finding a solution or workaround to these obstacles. Obstacles can be human, or they can be related to resources. If you need to involve senior administration or meet with individuals, do it early. If you need to contact vendors and request a fix, do it.
Try to avoid changes in the scope of the project as these can slow team momentum and enthusiasm. There is nothing worse than an implementation that constantly changes direction, leaving everyone discouraged and confused. If you must make changes to ensure successful implementation, clearly communicate both the reason and the solution to management and the team.
Successful project implementation requires the skilful management of many moving parts. With clarity, communication and a strong, experienced team you can help ensure your project is implemented successfully.