So you’ve decided to jump on the cloud wagon for 2016 and you’re very excited with your new project. This blog article is to assist you by providing you with 7 key points to help ensure success of your project. Through this article, I’ll give you some tips & insights based on my experience in rolling out over 250 engagements spanning over a decade, with some 200 odd cloud project implementations primarily around CRM and Marketing Cloud.
By now, you should have evaluated your business decision to use the virtual cloud. You know the specific business area in your setup and where you intend to reduce your infrastructure costs. So, where to from here? Planning! Most of us are familiar with the 5Ps, or, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Be it PMBOK or PRINCE2 methodologies or any other project management methodology that you chose to adopt, every project starts with a meticulous planning process. This is by far the most important step in any project based on my experience. Plan, plan, plan. Yes, but what?
1. Business Objective & Goals
Clear written business objectives, short-term (6 to 12 months) and long-term (1 to 3 year) goals is key. There should be a defined ROI for each goal tied to a measurement matrix for evaluation. Attaching milestones to these goals will put more focus on rewards which helps with motivation for a change.
2. Identifying Key Stakeholders
Success of any project lies in the pre-implementation and post-implementation adoption. Having a strong sponsor with vested financial interest in the outcome of the project helps. Identifying key project stakeholders who come up with ideas, suggestions and are willing to be responsible for certain milestones ensures project success. The key project team can vary according to the size of the organization, but I find anywhere between 3 to 5 people for a cloud project implementation is a manageable number. The key here is to have people ready to not just adopt change, but to buy into the business goal.
3. Project Plan
Yes, the project plan! This can start as high-level as possible, giving enough visibility around achieving key milestones. One thing I learnt while studying Agile methodology (not saying Waterfall is different) is the concept of team meetings. I adopted this technique whilst implementing at a large cloud provider, whereby my key project team would help me put a framework around the project plan. All I had to do was go back to my desk and use my project software to check capacities and put timelines in the project. Then, circulate the project plan amongst team members with tasks, timelines and key milestones. One tip I found through implementations, is to have a flexible project plan that can accommodate changes. Lets face it, the truth is once we begin implementations, people come up with different ideas to make the outcome better. So a flexible project plan allows for effective change controls. However, for a smaller cloud project (1 to 4 weeks) implementation, you should keep it as rigid as possible so that there is less deviations during the actual roll-out.
4. Identify Dependencies
Most of us build good project plans but fall behind when it comes to identifying dependencies. This is important for any project, but especially for a cloud project. An extreme analogy I learnt during an ERP software implementation, was in the construction industry where if a supply chain was not handled properly, it had a direct impact running into hundreds of millions of dollars at the project closure meetings. Yes, the cloud project implementations may not be that high, but still, 10 hours over budget out of total 100 hours, project budget is still 10% over-run. This in part can be avoided by identifying dependencies, and assigning these to responsible people who will get the job done. I have started building these dependencies in my cloud projects as pre-requisites for project success. Without these pre-reqs, project outcomes cannot be achieved, and without timely delivery, the project will definitely run over budget, time and costs.
5. Risk & Issues
Project managers usually talk about risks & issues. Simply put, a risk is something that could potentially derail the project. You can have a good risk (positive business growth) or a bad risk (negative business impact). Most risks will start with the above point, dependencies. As a project manager, I am constantly thinking about these dependencies and thinking if I’ll I get my deliverables in time. What do I need to do to ensure risk is mitigated? Who do I need to reach out for assistance? If not, what contingencies can I build in my plan to ensure the milestones are still met? And if none of the above questions are positive, it is time to escalate a risk into an issue. Issues are always bad. Best project managers whom I have learned from, have always mentored me to use the concept of identifying risks earlier so that they don’t become issues. Because if they do become issues, you at least have an idea of the resources at hand. One key insight is to also identify if the issue is a show-stopper or just noise. Some issues that we try to resolve may not have significant impact in the overall business objective, and it is just prudent not to devote time on mitigating these issues, but de-scope certain elements.
People resources, partner resources and online resources, all help. For bigger cloud implementations, it is absolutely imperative to know what is available to you to ensure a successful roll-out. One de-valued resource, is definitely the use of partners. A vendor evaluation is another blog article in itself, but somebody who can add value through their best practice implementations similar to yours, needs to be a partner, not a vendor. Most cloud providers also have best practice implementation strategies available with them which also serve as a guide. Read-up, but if you think you can’t achieve a few tasks, don’t shy away from calling for help.
My final tip and this is an absolute no brainer, is communications. Knowing your plan is one thing, but is it the same for everybody in your team? My technology team regularly has scrum meetings to know if we are on track for our daily deliverables. I’m a big fan of face-to-face interactions as this helps along the way. Cloud implementation should not be about stopping face-to-face meetings but having short meetings to move forward. You can communicate via email, phone, SMS or any channel, as long as there is communication. Communication is something that I know I need to constantly improve, and is always ongoing, but the entire success of any project deep down is how well the team communicates on an implementation.
There are loads more tips, but these 7 steps will help any cloud project implementation.