Six Differentiators in Successful Enterprise-wide Technology Projects

 In Change Management, Implementation Support

The differentiators between success and failure

There are an astonishingly large number of enterprise-wide technology projects that fail. Projects like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Constituent Relationship Management), because they impact so many people and processes are particularly susceptible. However, Build sees some key differentiators that make enterprise-wide technology projects, that are inherently more complex, successful.

Successful enterprise-wide technology projects:

  1. Understand and communicate the scale of the change.
  2. Create a data strategy tied to organizational strategy.
  3. Surface and address differences of opinion among stakeholders.
  4. Identify and plan for changes in staffing.
  5. Plan and budget for a multi-year technology initiative.
  6. Address waning interest and growing fatigue.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, many of these differentiators are up-front investments that successful organizations make. They assess, plan, and invest in what is ahead—well in advance of an enterprise-wide technology project.

Assessing your organization’s readiness, developing a strategic vision, and communicating the scale of change is a thread that runs through all of Build’s recommended investments for our clients.

Understand and socialize the scale of change

Change management is being stressed by more and more technology consultants and vendors. At Build, change management is central to the way we think about technology change, and has been since our founding.

In our experience, software companies or implementations tend to view change management as something that starts at implementation. But viewing change as starting at implementation misses opportunities for early learnings that can impact the overall direction. It is essential to do an assessment of change considerations before diving into an enterprise-wide technology transformation.

A thorough technology assessment socializes the scale of change ahead with leadership and the broader organization. This informs investments in change management before, during, and after the project. There must be leadership alignment around the change itself, the scale of the changes, and how to manage the change.

Create a data strategy tied to organizational strategy

Data is an asset, not a simply a biproduct of organizational activity. Enterprise-wide technology projects will not succeed if the underlying goal is that “more” data is “better.” If the goal of the project is to create better constituent experiences, for example, what data will support those experiences? How will you know you are successful in creating something better?

It is imperative to take the time to outline the way the data support your organizational strategy. A data strategy can help drive technology investments by creating summary and detailed data maps, inventories, and models. Data strategies promote the creation of information and tools necessary to visualize the gaps and opportunities for technology investments. Leaders and their teams should gain agreement around the organizational strategic data needs and how an enterprise-wide technology project supports those.

Surface and address differences of opinion among stakeholders

Enterprise-wide technology projects that make people feel heard is a key differentiator that makes projects successful. Stakeholders feeling heard is different than making sure everyone agrees. Enterprise-wide technology projects mean new ways of working and operating and leaders should seek understanding of differing views, experiences, and opinions. Everyone should get a voice, but not everyone should get a vote.

First, understand the departments, teams, and people impacted by a project with a stakeholder map or matrix. Second, solicit input using interviews, listening sessions, surveys, and other tools. Third, use what you’ve learned to inform the path forward.

There will be differences of opinion. Make sure the right people get a voice, and the right people get a vote.

Identify and plan for changes in staffing

Enterprise-wide technology projects have significant staffing costs. These staffing costs include adding additional headcount or engaging vendors for ongoing strategic or technical support. Organizations should expect, and budget for, changes to staffing costs.

Ask vendors about what they have seen other successful organizations do with respect to staffing as you evaluate an enterprise-wide technology project. To support the technology, what roles are required? What will be the role of your IT department? Are there roles that can be outsourced vs. insourced?

Plan and budget for a multi-year technology initiative

A common mistake is to treat enterprise-wide technology projects as one-time investments that occur within one or two fiscal years. Large, enterprise-wide technology projects require budgets beyond the initial implementation. These multi-year initiatives include budgeting for change management, long-term staffing, and expected iterative improvements. In partnership with your organization’s budgeting and financial planning experts, you should create multi-year technology budgets.

Viewing enterprise-wide technology projects as long-term strategic investments is a pivot for many nonprofits who historically saw technology as simply an expense or cost. Like any mindset and behavior shift, this pivot will require time and resources, but it is necessary for setting your organization up for success.

Address waning interest and growing fatigue

A selection and implementation of enterprise technology projects often lasts between 12-24 months, depending on the project and the size of the organization. Of course, it is hard to maintain interest and avoid fatigue with periods of intensity and dormancy. Staff can lose interest and focus, and might be left wondering “What’s the point”?

The reality is that interest will fade, which makes champions, cheerleaders, and advocates essential. Get them to reinforce the importance of the work, broadcast how the work advances shared goals, and recognize the contributions that individuals, teams, and departments are making.

It’s the differentiators that drive success

Build’s experience has shown that these considerations are critical components of successful enterprise-wide technology projects. Therefore, it is not strategic to charge ahead with a software selection or implementation. Investing in fully understanding what is required for enterprise-wide technology projects greatly increases your chances for success.

Finally, enterprise-wide technology projects often are the start of a larger transformation in how an organization uses and applies technology. Focusing on these differentiators are the difference between success and failure.