Working Together – How to get you and your team through a Campus Solutions Implementation?

By Jeffrey Yazdi posted 06-07-2010 05:21 AM


Many of us have been through an implementation (or two or three….), reflecting back on each project there are areas where we could have improved. Interestingly, lack of product knowledge, inadequate technical skill sets, and not enough effort from resources are NOT core themes. 

What jumps out time and time again are softer skills – Communication, Project organization structure, Knowledge transfer (as well as training and change management).  In this blog series, I am going to attempt to address fundamental ‘working together’ themes:

·         Why is working together so difficult (or is it)?
·         What team organization structure makes sense for a Campus Solutions Implementation?
·         What tools, methods, and motivators can we use to help enable our team to be successful?

Blog Entry 1 - Why is working together so difficult (or is it)?
There is a song by the Canadian artist Gonzales called ‘working together’. The main stanza of this song is….
If you don't look good,
Then I don't look good,
Then we don't look good
….which we all can relate too - as we all want to look good. So why is it so hard for everyone on the project team to look good?

Spending time thinking about this question, I have noted some general themes from past projects:

1. The honeymoon phase of the project is great. Everyone is happy, excited, and motivated. No one is (publicly) stressing about budgets or timeline.

2. Through the first few weeks of the project relationships build within the team, team members that share common interests (personally and professionally) or team members that had prior relationships tended to group together.

3. As the weeks turn to months, focus on the project plan becomes more apparent. Individual streams are focused on project tasks like configuration and customization design - there is less socializing and later nights focused on completing these project tasks.

4. Mid way through the project stress throughout the team as there is increased pressure to ‘get ‘er done’. Relationships between team members are tested. At this time the first big project ‘gotcha’ occurs, which in turn builds stress in the project management and at the sponsorship level.

5. As the stress builds, focus on big picture disappears and day to day tasks (putting out fires) become priority for all.  At this point the team often becomes polarized and conflict often results.

6. The epic battle of Functional vs. Technical vs. Project Management begins. In larger implementations this polarization can be even more dramatic. For examples, the Student Records stream accuses the Admissions stream for lack of foresight. The Student Financials team questions core business processes of Student Records.  Developers feel they are not getting the respect from functional analysts, and Project Managers feel no one is listening to them.

7. Qualitative (Softer) implementation tasks take a back seat – these include Knowledge transfer, communications, training, change management, Team Social Events….

8. Praise for hard work and recognizing project accomplishments are far and few between.

9. The idea of one project team no longer exists. Siloed task-oriented groups prevail and the phrase ‘everyman/woman for his/herself’ becomes the mantra.

10. …..The list goes on….

Knowing that the above themes are not unique to any one project, how can we use these lessons learned going forward?

Below are simple concepts that are required for project and team success that, if followed, can keep the project positive and the team effective:

Team Plan – Detailed project planning is not only important for project tasks like configuration and testing, but also planning for creating and maintaining an effective team.

Leadership – Effective leaders that understand the value of a cohesive team are required. Not only do leaders manage, but they motivate the team and ensure alignment of expectations.

Responsibility – It may sound basic, but understanding what is expected of you and your role on the team is essential for success.  Knowing your role on the team, knowing the value you add with every task, understanding individual objectives and how they align to the overall project goal is fundamental to individual and team success.  

Accountability – taking ownership and becoming accountable for specific deliverables or tasks is required. If a piece of the project does not have anyone accountable, the project is at risk.

Transparency – sharing information about the team and project and maintaining transparency at all levels removes the negative power of the rumor-mill and promotes communication.

The purpose of this blog entry is to encourage dialogue. If you are thinking of starting an implementation, build the concepts of team planning, leadership, responsibility, accountability, and transparency into your approach. If you are in the middle of the project, use these concepts to evaluate the health of your team. It is never too late to (re)build your team.

The next blog entry will be on project organization design.

Fionn Chin-Yee
Manager at Deloitte Inc Canada