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New IT project? Here are Six Questions to Ask Your Project Manager

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IT projects are often fraught with challenges, both technological/infrastructural and cultural. While the former is eventually resolved, it’s the latter type of challenge that has more far reaching implications. An IT project – regardless of how ‘game-changing’ for the business it promises to be on paper – without user adoption, it’s naught!

Here are six questions to ask your Project Manager, before embarking on an IT project:

1. Have you talked to the key stakeholders about their business goals for the project?

All stakeholders have their own business requirements and expectations from technology, which aren’t always apparent to the project team, who often see their assignment as ‘deploying’ a software to success metrics such as on time, on budget and so on. The business goals for the Partners will be different to the Finance Director, who may be looking for productivity gains and improved billing. Similarly, the IT Director may be hoping for a more robust and reliable system, while the Support staff may be eager for a reduction in calls to the Help Desk. An understanding of the goals of all the stakeholders is important to ensure successful delivery of a new technology.

2. Are you aware of the potential impact of the change on working practises for individuals?

It’s the individuals – lawyers, secretaries and support staff, etc. – who will likely use the new technology most. Knowledge of the change in working practices that the new IT system will initiate alongside an understanding of their impact on the users is important. Answer the “what’s in it for me” question upfront. A good way to assess this and indeed ‘take the users’ with you in this process is early stage business workshops. Ensure that there’s at least one representative at each level from each team/department participating. When the new system is deployed, nothing will be a surprise to both the users and the project team.

3. Do you have a communication plan in place to set expectations for the project?

There can never be enough communication and interaction with the business to inform them of the business objectives for the project, how it will benefit the users, and how the project is progressing. Regular email updates and team meetings are great, but you can be creative too – posters, quizzes, branded merchandise, etc. help generate interest and are a fun way of taking the organisation on the journey of change.

4. Will there be any issues around timing – any impact on billing, targets, etc?

Regularly work with the Project Manager on timelines of the programme. For instance, year-end is when fee earners are under most pressure – does the Project Manager know of any targets that could potentially be impacted by upcoming changes to their working practices? Similarly, are there any major deals in the pipeline that could require a delay in implementation of any element of the software?

5. Have you involved the training team from the start so they can plan a flexible, blended approach to delivery?

Ensuring that trainers are involved from the start of the project – be they in-house or from your implementation partner – is critical. They have in-depth knowledge about the best way to deliver training for a new project and can pre-empt resistance to change in a constructive manner. Crucially, they will be able to provide good input from the users’ perspective right across the implementation process.

6. Will you be able to measure performance/productivity improvements to the business in a meaningful way?

Work with the Project Manager to determine metrics and success criteria that align with the goals of the business and then monitor those objectives. Is billing increasing? Are emails being filed promptly and correctly? Are fee earners able to find their documents quickly? This might be time to consider assessing competence using one of the LTC4™ Learning Plans so that you can prove that individuals have really managed the change and adopted the new system.

Deriving business benefit and value is fundamentally the key driver for technology adoption, which cannot be achieved without user buy-in and adoption. Change management and timely training is proven to facilitate user adoption and even facilitate a cultural transformation, when done correctly.

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