Lessons Learned from Recent Implementations

I have been a little lazy about writing though I have been pretty busy as always. I did write something in July for EDUCAUSE Review about the new role of IT. As you can see there, I was talking about our major initiative, Workday implementation, and summarized the lessons learned:

  • Accept mistakes and correct them quickly. These complex projects affect a wide range of users, and it is impossible to capture all of the use cases and user needs up front. You should develop appropriate response strategy after the initial roll out by anticipating that you will hear complaints—especially from users who cannot do what they used to do in the older system. When this happens, accept responsibility for it, offer alternatives, and prioritize their delivery based on the institutional impact.
  • Never underestimate the importance of change management. No matter how much you prepare, you will always fall short in managing the change and you will always receive complaints about issues ranging from communication style and frequency (for some it is too much, and for others it is too little) to too many new terminologies to not enough training or training at inconvenient times. To prepare, you should over-communicate, create targeted communications, and offer a lot of training, both for groups and individuals. You should continue these activities beyond the initial rollout and for however long it takes to help users acclimate to the new system. Also, where possible, ease users into the new system rather than cutting over everything one fine day.
  • Establish clear governance and goals. It is very important to set achievable goals and make sure the community understands them. Further, having a clear governance structure is crucial for such a major implementation. Ensure that your governance body can make decisions quickly and that the implementation team can rely on it for crisis management, because plenty of crises will arise all along the way!
  • Time your training appropriately. Staff members will be eager to get as much training as possible as quickly as possible. Timing the training in such a way that your staff can put it to use as soon as possible is essential. Avoid sending staff to training too early at all costs; waiting too long to send them is also unproductive. Choosing the optimal time—typically, within 60 days of rollout—is key.
  • Praise the staff often and reward their efforts. Some staff members will enthusiastically participate in the project and view it as once in a lifetime opportunity. Because the work will be very demanding, praising your team members for the good work they do is critical to keeping morale high. Plan to reward staff performance as well, which will be very much appreciated.
  • There will be staff turnover, so plan for it. At the most inopportune times, you will encounter turnovers. Some people will not want to go through an ERP transition and will leave midstream; their loss will likely be hard. Others will move on after gaining experience in the new system. These departures will diminish team morale, so planning ahead, having a strategy, and being up front and open with your entire team about these events—and how you plan to respond to them—will serve you well in the end.

We have several other projects in the wings and these lessons learned will become important. We are well into the implementation of the last leg of Workday – Workday Student. This will require a lot more change management than any other projects we have been involved in.

We have also begun the implementation of Affinaquest, a system for supporting our fundraising operations. This product is Salesforce based. Though our direct involvement in Salesforce will be limited, this is yet another system for us to learn and support. The implementation will likely be a little easier because the system is primarily used by a single department.

Nolij, a document management system, that was dormant for a long time changed about 7 years ago when we made it part of our strategy. Only a couple of departments use it to its fullest extent including workflow etc. whereas a few others use it simply as a document repository. Nolij was taken over by a couple of different companies and we were given the option to move to OnBase, but at a considerably higher cost! We felt that some of these new systems we have been moving to will help alleviate the need for a full fledged document management system, but it turns out that new needs are emerging, so we have decided to implement OnBase.

In addition, we have a few other systems that we are in the process of implementing. I won’t bore you with details…

There is never a dull moment!!!

Leave a Reply