An IT project typically follows the Pareto principle, with 80% of the excitement, momentum, and executive sponsorship devoted to the project itself, often resulting in a mere 20% of the output necessary to achieve the intended long-term business outcomes. While a successful go-live can drive short-term gratification, it rarely results in successful value creation, and recognition, over time. The work done in the years following a go-live must produce the other 80% of output necessary to achieve the intended business outcomes or the initiative will ultimately be perceived as a failure. When we’ve seen this 80/20 paradigm flipped, while seemingly drastic, it leads to a faster up-front win and near-zero risk of long-term failure.
There’s a tremendous amount of attention dedicated to an implementation, from an investment board to the executives to external vendor teams to special project managers. This includes extensive executive status reporting, vast process changes, organizational transformation, and company-wide enablement… all to get to the start of value creation. Upon go-live, a project has yet to achieve a single result or return a dollar in ROI back to the business. And yet, within weeks, executive attention has shifted, enablement has ended, and vendors have left. Think: tumbleweeds rolling across the desert weeks after Burning Man, with one or two lone technical administrators left to hold down the fort. And now the work must begin.
It’s critical to implement a sustained process of iteratively improving your culture, your process, and your technology after go-live in order to continuously deliver results. This is where the real magic happens. Over the last 25 years, we’ve observed that when the following 4 practices are used in concert and iteratively improved, success is highly probable:
1. Keep your user community engaged
Following a go-live, the user community and process managers begin to directly provide feedback and ask for improvements; it’s critical to engage them during this window of time because it’s much harder (if not impossible) to get this momentum back later. You must receive and acknowledge their feedback, rationalize and prioritize a backlog of enhancements, and consistently communicate the new and improved features or capabilities being deployed. You must create a feedback loop showing users you care, you are capable, and they should keep coming.
This feedback loop has an organizational benefit as well, promoting the notion that everyone is working as one team toward a common goal. This helps build ownership in the change, making users more likely to adopt it.
According to the science of novelty, our brains are inherently motivated to seek out novel stimuli because we see them as having the potential for rewarding us in some way. When a stimulus becomes familiar and our brain recognizes it as not having a reward associated with it, it loses its potential and we’re not as motivated to explore it. By continuously communicating the new features or capabilities being deployed in your software, you’re introducing novelty, improving retention, acknowledging user feedback, and maintaining momentum.
2. Consistently analyze critical KPIs
You must designate someone, typically a Process Manager, responsible for analyzing critical KPIs and investigating areas for improvement when they fall below targets.
If you stood alone before the finest telescope on the market and looked through its lens, would you know where to point it? Where to focus it? Would you be able to identify stars, planets, and galaxies? Imagine you now have an astronomer by your side, with a deep understanding of space and how to use your telescope to identify specific stars and planets. Much like this scenario, you can implement the latest and greatest software and have the finest dashboard money can buy, but you need someone critically and continuously tracking to your outcomes, asking the right questions, and identifying which data to investigate and how to make sense of it.
4. Communicate early, clearly, and consistently to drive adoption
In order to achieve your desired outcomes, users must adopt the tools and processes you’ve implemented. If only 30% of your user community uses self-service, for example, then you are only realizing 30% of the potential benefit of self-service. How do you drive user adoption of a change? In our experience, users that feel a sense of ownership in a change, and feel prepared and enabled around it are more likely to support and adopt the change. To drive this kind of engagement, it’s critical to communicate clearly and consistently around what’s changing, why it’s changing, when it’s changing, and how the change will impact users on an individual level.
By implementing a change, you’re asking employees to adopt something less familiar to them. It’s important to acknowledge the challenges associated with change in tandem with articulating the value of the change. We recommend communicating how adopting the change will benefit individual users day-to-day by answering questions such as: How will this change make my life easier? Set me up for advancement? Bring stability or simplicity to my job? Help me sleep easier? Putting together a thoughtful communication strategy will help align your users to the vision of your project, demonstrate the value of your project, and demonstrate the value each person brings to fulfilling that vision.
In order to continue delivering results, you must continue communicating.
4. Manage, enhance, and optimize your software
In order to achieve your outcomes, you must manage and maintain your software, tackle the backlog of enhancements that arose during the project, and continuously roll out new features and capabilities, all while continuously driving user adoption. In our experience, the four most common strategies for managing and enhancing a tool after go-live are to: 1) Use internal resources or hire new employees (“DIY”), 2) Use consultants in staff aug or add-on projects, 3) Use a traditional managed service, or 4) Use an outcome-based managed service.
Take 2 minutes to check out our blog post about our experiences with these four options, and where we’ve seen customers succeed and fail: You Should Expect More from your IT Operations Software
How will you maintain momentum after go-live?