Thursday, November 20, 2014

The 7 Habits of Successful Technology Projects – Habit 4

Posted in [Dynamics CRM], [SharePoint], [Salesforce.com], [Business Intelligence], [Business User], [Management] By Curtis Hughes @ 3/28/2014

 

This is a continuation of a new blog series that I started a few week ago, which I’ll wrap-up over the next few weeks.  As a brief refresher, my goal has been to write a blog on one habit per week, and so far, we are still on track to finish in another 3 weeks or so.  As I’ve mentioned in the previous habits, the content for this series has been developed over many years and hundreds of client projects.  In fact, in addition to applying the habits to all of our client projects, we often speak on these habits as part of a larger session we call “CPR”, where we discuss project rescue and how projects can avoid having to be rescued.  The ultimate goal here is to present these habits in a short and succinct manner, so that you can have clear takeaways to immediately put into practice on your projects. 

If you arrived here and have not yet read the first 3 blogs in this series, I would encourage you to start there.  I have provided links below to the first three habits that that we have looked at so far.

Habit 1: Chart Your Journey

Habit 2: Stay The Course

Habit 3: Invest In The Unseen

So, without further ado, let’s jump in to the fourth habit. 

Habit 4: Avoid The Silver Bullet Syndrome

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I must admit, this fourth habit is an interesting one, and can be interpreted a few different ways.  I could continue on with the road trip analogy that I used in the first three habits, but for this one, I’m going to cut right to the chase.  In this blog, I’d like to share two ways in which focusing on technology can actually be a hindrance to your project, rather than a help.  Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, in fact I would not be where I am today without technology, but it certainly wasn’t the only thing that helped me along the way.

 

 

  1. Technology is wonderful thing, but never forget that it’s not the only thing.  What I mean is this - while technology can provide us with new ways of doing things, automation of tasks, and analysis we could only dream of doing on our own, technology should never be a substitute for your people and your process.  As I’ve said before, it’s about your people first, your process second, and the technology last.  I realize this may not be the most popular answer, but experience has shown us that it’s the truth.  Practically speaking, this means that in order for your project to be successful, you need to have great people, good project and change management process, and decent technology.  I won’t site specific studies in this blog, but if you do a search, you will find plenty.  However, what you will not find is technology at the heart of project failures.  The top 3-5 reasons usually mention unrealistic timelines, poor decisions made by the project team, unrealistic budgets, lack of leadership, etc.  As you can see, a common theme in project failures is usually people, which is why I can’t stop saying that people have to be first.  Again, it’s not the most popular answer for sure, but the facts are just that.  So, as you embark on your next project, or maybe you are in the midst of a large project that is turning south, keep in mind that the fancy resource scheduling tool, time tracking tool, and agile templates you have are all great things, but they will never come close to replacing the people who are using those tools.  In addition, as I often say, if you have bad processes, adding technology will usually only help automate or enhance your bad processes (so now you have sophisticated, bad processes!).


  2. While #1 above focused on technology as a silver bullet for how the project was implemented, this one focuses on the silver bullet for what you are trying to implement.  As the title of this blog series states, we are focusing on habits that make technology projects more successful, and this is one is a fairly easy trap in which to fall.  The truth of the matter is, when it comes to technology products and platforms, one size doesn’t fit all.  As an example, let’s say you are implementing a new CRM platform across your entire organization.  Your company is not huge, and certainly isn’t overly complex, and you’ve heard that CRM is an enterprise platform - a suite of tools that can do nearly everything you need - and it will revolutionize your business!  Ah, therein lies the rub.  While CRM in and of itself is a wonderful tool, no one with a toolbox at their house, no matter how small or how few projects they do, only has a hammer in it.  I’m guessing there is also a screwdriver or two, and other miscellaneous gear.  The lesson is this – start with your business challenges, understand your processes, talk to your people, and then bring in a partner to help you navigate the technologies while aligning them with your organizational needs.  We’ve seen many companies try to use a single piece of technology to solve a half-dozen business issues, half of which are process issues and don’t need technology at all.  When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  One platform will not solve all your problems, so choose the right tool for the right job.

In closing, I wanted to share a quick story from the education world, to show how technology can be a part of the solution, but is not the only solution.  A few decades ago, when Microsoft PowerPoint began to be used in the classroom, teachers started to use the technology in very different ways.  A few teachers learned the ins and outs of PowerPoint to integrate animations, pictures, and other games into their presentations, which as you can imagine greatly enriched the experience for students and kept their attention (i.e. helped them learn).  In contrast, a few other teachers simply decided to type all of their lesson plans and notes into slides, hundreds of them, and then proceed to read verbatim from the screen.  Want to guess what this did for students?  You guessed it, students were bored and unengaged and as a result, grades went down.  The moral of the story is this – technology is amazing, one of the best things we have, but it can never, and should never replace smart people, effective processes, and a clear vision for the goals the technology is to achieve.

I hope this fourth habit has been helpful and relevant.  Again, the goal is to keep these short and sweet, so my desire is that you will be able to take away a few nuggets of wisdom and experience from this series.  Stay tuned for habit five next week!

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    This is the final blog in a series that I started nearly 8 weeks ago. As a brief refresher, my goal has ...
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