The first imperative to achieving success in any enterprise initiative with a diverse pool of stakeholders and users, whether it be a DAM or SharePoint roll-out, or a social media communication plan, is to create a shared view of success within the organization. This view should include some near-term achievable goals, as well as longer range goals.
Near-term “quick wins” or “low-hanging fruit” goals are important to making early progress and maintaining both momentum and support along the way to achieving the longer-term goals. Of course, in order to get a long term shared view of success, it is necessary to ensure that the organization points its efforts to move in parallel to a strategic plan, so that near term tactical goals can be in alignment with the organization’s further strategic goals.
Avoid the complex in favor of the simplified view.
We want to try and simplify everything to some agreed core objectives. It’s quite common for enterprise projects to have complex components, complex stakeholder requirements, and for the environment to place a confusion of bright shiny opportunities in front of us. The most successful projects try to distill business requirements, stakeholder interests and the availability of the new technologies to a simplified set of core objectives that we can hold up as a mirror to the project along the way. This will help everyone to agree on what success looks like.
This will also help to manage expectations within the core project group and with key stakeholders, and to create a shared view of the project. Not only a shared view now, but also a shared view of what this should look like over the first 3 months, the next 6 months as the project moves to next steps, and what stakeholders agree together that it should look like over the course of the whole year.
It’s very important that the core project team feel that everyone has bought into this shared view, and equally important for all the stakeholders to feel that they’re not going to be surprised – that what they’re going to see will reflect this shared view. Of course, some key metrics or some kind of model is needed to reflect that progress is on track. This can all be achieved through a thorough discovery process involving management, as well as interviews with key stakeholders and some downstream participants. We also want to identify perceived opportunities and constraints as early in the process as possible.
In order to achieve some success and good outcomes as early as possible, we want to identify quick wins and “low hanging fruit”. Quick wins offer a double bottom line return on investment by giving the project early momentum and demonstrable value. But we also need to look forward and identify longer term returns on projects or tasks that have longer horizons. Not everything will necessarily be cheap and quick, but we want to balance a long view with earlier positive outcomes.
The project team is probably already aware of opportunities to leverage existing resources and investments. As often as we can, we try to identify good internal ideas, taking advantage of internal experience and expertise, and to help to further develop them. Think of yourself as a midwife to the organization’s nascent internal ideas. This also nurtures a sense of ownership with the project team and key stakeholders.
Create 30/60/90/180/360 day shared view
It is important for the project’s success and long term sustainability to create a shared view of where we are going now and where we want to be for the future. Creating this shared view for the next 30 days/60 days/ 90 days/six month and a year will help everyone to appreciate whether the project and its outcomes are in line with agreements.
Here is a high level look at the shared view. For planning purposes this view helps us to focus on some concrete timeframes and make some decisions about what’s possible, and what to expect as we move forward. Because we create a “shared view”, we are able to communicate effectively about what to expect and when. The first 90 days are easy to map out on a project plan for the discovery, analysis and recommendations project. But what happens next? There should be some shared vision of near-term next steps, as well as processes we should expect to see following on later in the year.
Continuously sell the project vision
How do we communicate our shared view and make sure we have support in the organization as we move ahead? We want to ensure high communication and support within the core project team and among stakeholders.
Develop opportunities for communication feedback loops. A feedback loop is meant to augment the result by feeding back new information and ideas into the communications loop. This requires that we are prepared to accept inputs, as well as communicating out. It is important to regularly tell our story to reinforce the shared view; however, we want to ensure that stakeholders feel that they are heard – and we want to encourage that listening posture with everyone involved in the project. That’s why there is a sales aspect to good project communication. A good salesman knows that she needs to be a good listener, along with making a good sales pitch.
The project sales cycle is also a continuous learning cycle. Start by ensuring the buy-in of the core project team and project sponsor(s). If you don’t have a shared view and the resulting feeling of support and commitment in the core team, you have already lost! The feedback loop assumes that the team will evangelize and infect other stakeholders and partners with enthusiasm for the project and the shared vision. This takes good advantage of the existing social networks inside the organization. And, of course, the conversation needs to be a two-way street: allowing the process to learn through conversation and feedback. This helps to foster comfort, flexibility and sustained support for the project outcomes.