4 reasons why implementation projects could fail

    and how to make yours into a success

    Nina Beauchez

    An implementation trajectory can be an intimidating task. However, if executed well it can cause many positive changes within an organization. Increased efficiency, improved finances and most importantly: spending money where it matters on (development) projects.  Countless things can go wrong during an implementation trajectory, as these implementation usually touch upon the core processes of an organization like finance, project management and CRM. Issues will almost certainly arise at some point of your implementation, however if you are aware of the following four pitfalls, you can make your implementation project into a success.  

    A lack of a clear project plan and project organization

    Without a clear project plan and a dedicated project team you cannot adequately prepare for transition. In regard to the project plan, the most important facets are the current state of affairs within the organization’s IT-landscape, the software (supplier) selection trajectory, the overall timeline of the project, possible risks that could occur during the project and which parts in the plan should be prioritized. Preferably your project team, or project organization, includes a steering group made up out of the relevant board and MT members to create sufficient carrying capacity within the organization to see the implementation trajectory through. Additionally, depending on your implementation trajectory, the employees within the organization who are the owners of the processes you are implementing should be included into the project team. For example, if you are implementing a finance application, it is good to include the finance manager and make sure (s)he has enough time cleared in his schedule to help working out the processes and translating them to the new application. This is to make sure that the processes within the organization will correspond with the implemented processes in the new application.  

    Do: Assign a project team and make sure they have time cleared in their schedule to make the implementation project a priority and to guard for the goals set out for the project, as well as creating accountability.

    A lack of People, Process & Technology

    Data4Development believes that People, Process and Technology are in ongoing interplay, especially during an implementation trajectory. Maybe you have heard about people, process and technology before, as this interplay was first described by Leavitt in 1964 in his article: “Applied organization change in industry”.

    people process technology

    The easiest way to explain it is as follows: people are executing the task, the process is how the task is executed and the technology is what facilitates the execution of the task. Merely focusing on the technology part and not including the organization’s People’s (staff’s) input, their user and business requirements or not training them properly can have disastrous consequences for your implementation project. The same is true for lacking focus on the process. When the process is implemented in the software in the wrong way, it will be unable to facilitate the task at hand. Failing to take this interplay into consideration it can lead to large disruptions in day-to-day activities, finance, not meeting funders requirements and so on.

    Do: Include people, process and technology in your implementation trajectory and be aware of the interplay between these, within the organization.

    A lack of involvement from the organization

    People underestimate the number of processes within an organization that are touched upon during an implementation process. A complete implementation trajectory within the non-profit sector usually includes the replacement of the following core modules: finance, project management and CRM. Usually, there are some additional modules on top of the core modules like: Monitoring and Evaluation, dashboards or Human Resources. All of the work processes surrounding the modules will have to be touched upon. First, to be mapped if there are no descriptions of the work processes available, and secondly to see if the process can be translated into the module or needs some tweaking. Lastly, there needs to be sufficient training for the organization to adopt the new software module and start working with it.

    At this point it has probably become clear that point 1, 2 and 3 all (partly) focus on involvement and carrying capacity of the organization. We know from extended experience that involvement of the organization as well as having sufficient carrying capacity, is one of the most important factors during an implementation process. If the organization’s staff is not involved the chances of having a successful implementation and adoption are very slim. Therefore, clear ongoing communication on the project is of the utmost importance.

    Do: Give regular updates on the implementation project to the entire organization. Try to include the wider organization through updates, ongoing communication, and making sure to gain input from staff on their user requirements. An implementation project is a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up process.

    A lack of clean data

    One of the trickier parts of the implementation process is the moment in which the data needs to be transferred from the old to the new application. Besides the mapping of the data and seeing which fields of the templates match between the applications; it is very important to pay sufficient attention to the cleaning of the data. All data should be checked for completeness and accuracy, you can read more about the importance of good data quality here. The point of checking and cleaning up your data is similar to when you move homes. You do not want to bring stuff that you do not use anymore, is broken or just plain unnecessary into your new space.

    Do: Map, clean and check the data before migrating it to the new application.

    The road to success

    Besides the four reasons mentioned above, there are many other reasons implementation projects fail. However, if there is a clear project plan with enough attention for people, process and technology, the chances are that the implementation will be a huge success. Just remember that you cannot change the software without changing the organization. Therefore, take a collaborative, iterative approach to design, planning and implementation.

    Do: If you need help with you implementation project; Data4Development offers consultancy from A to Z: the selection of the module to implementation and training. Read more about our implementation services here.

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