Assembling The Right Project Team
Pulling together the right project team is both a challenge and a precursor to successfully achieving all subsequent project steps. A common challenge is that the best people for the team are typically the people with the least availability (there's a correlation here). Sacrificing the project team by accepting people that are available, as opposed to people that are best suited for the role, is an initial mistake that many times will doom the implementation project.
So who should be on the implementation team? The roles and size of the project team will vary based on the scope of the implementation, the number of users, the number of physical locations, the level of sophistication and the resistance to change which may be encountered.
Enterprise level business software implementations require dedicated and organized resources. A typical customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation project team hierarchy includes the following roles and responsibilities.
The project Steering Committee should include management and other executive level stakeholders that will be directly or indirectly impacted by the success or outcome of the business software project. Throughout the engagement, the Steering Committee will achieve consensus and influence the most strategic goals for strategy, execution and adoption as well as guide the implementation scope, plan, time and cost. Once the organization reaches go-live, the Steering Committee will shift focus to emphasize adoption, utilization, measurement and refinement. Post software implementation tasks often include:
- Verifying information and knowledge is being centrally stored and shared
- Verifying users' are actually using, benefiting by and endorsing the business software application
- The information is being correctly processed and applied for operational efficiency, support and analysis
- Information is accurate, available and in proper format so that customers are better served and are spoken to with uniformity across the organization, regardless of who's actually speaking
Steering Committee members include executive level stakeholders, a Project Leader, a Project Manager, generally a Lead Consultant, a Finance representative, IT participant(s) and occasionally key users. All members are accountable for reviewing the progress of the implementation, understanding the current issues, asking questions in order to uncover understanding, facilitating significant issues, providing insight or direction, and promoting the team's efforts through moral and vocal support.
Key Steering Committee responsibilities include the following:
- Provide vision and direction
- Visibly and vocally sponsor the project and its objectives publicly and frequently
- Reinforce cultural change
- Ensure human resource and capital availability
- Influence, steer or resolve policy issues
Additional Steering Committee responsibilities may include the following:
- Sponsoring strategic objectives such as corporate-wide data sharing or shared customer responsibilities. For example, clearly sponsoring the organization's customer information and data sharing strategy, which states that customer information is to be centralized and available throughout the organization (possibly based on need and security) for sharing in order to promote effectiveness and better service the customer. This type of information strategy generally prohibits staff from operating silo systems, shadow systems or other disconnected or standalone systems which do not result in customer information being put in the designated system of record.
- Provide interpretation or clarification of the company's vision, direction and objectives.
- Provide project oversight and guidance on strategic issues.
- Provide active and visible support for the project to the organization at large.
- Endorse the project, project leader, project manager and project team.
- Correlate the project objectives to the business direction.
- Ensure sustained buy-in at management levels.
- Ensure timely availability of the best resources.
- Ensure that the direction of the project continues to be in line with the original mission and goals set forth at the start of the project.
- Remove or mitigate obstacles which may impact the successful outcome of the project.
- Represent the organization as the ultimate counsel for conflict resolution. Make or influence decisions not made at lower levels.
- Provide an expeditious means of conflict resolution during the project.
- Attend all steering committee meetings and keep abreast of status and issues.
- Monitor project scope.
- Support the project team in the resolution of cross-functional or inter-departmental areas.
- Keep informed of project status; ask probing questions to ensure an accurate understanding.
- Deliver regular feedback to the project team on performance, deviations and expectations.
- Provide input for Project Leader and/or Project Manager periodic appraisals.
The Executive Sponsor should be the liaison between the Project Team and the Steering Committee. Smaller implementation projects sometimes substitute a single executive sponsor for a formal Steering Committee. For a CRM software implementation, the Executive Sponsor is often the VP of Sales, Director of Sales, President or Operations Manager. For ERP software implementations the Executive Sponsor is often one of the prior positions or the CFO. Regardless of position, the Executive Sponsor must closely monitor the activities and progress of the Project Leader and Project Team. This individual is responsible for communicating project status to the Steering Committee, ensuring milestones are completed in a timely fashion, and providing the executive supervision of the employees assigned to the project. Additional responsibilities may include being the primary contact for issues and questions from the Project Team as well as review and monitoring of the project plan milestones. It is paramount that the Executive Sponsor is a strong decision-maker who can break ties for critical decisions and understands why the solution was purchased and how it is going to benefit the organization.
Other Executive Sponsor tasks and responsibilities may include the following:
- Liaison to Steering Committee; Keep Steering Committee and project stakeholders updated with project status, progress and deviations.
- Identify and secure all necessary project team members for the project (e.g. Functional Champions, Key Uses, System Administrator.)
- Verify the dedicated participation of each needed project team member (available to commit up to full-time during peak periods and the backfill of team members ordinary responsibilities).
- Regularly review project status and emerging risks and select or approve alternative solutions from those presented.
- Provide direction on prioritization of emerging issues and risks.
- Provide advice and council on major project and policy decisions.
- Ensure the appropriate project team members and key decision makers are identified and available to fulfill their responsibilities.
- Identify and secure access to additional end user staff as needed to support specific areas of expertise not represented by the project team.
- If the project is an enterprise level project, ensure that a Steering Committee and Project Leader have been assembled and they understand their roles.
- Ensure adequate facilities and equipment are available to the project team (e.g. working area, desks, documentation storage, telephones, etc.).
- Provide interpretation of company vision, direction and execution of objectives to Project Leader and Project Team.
- Assist or influence the development, prioritization and leveling of the project work plan.
- Chair regular project meetings to discuss outstanding issues, emerging risks, project status and scheduled events.
- Communicate all project budget and financial issues to financial management and secure resolution for open or contingent items.
- Inform the Project Leader and vendor consultants of any urgent issues if and when they arise.
- Review deliverables at milestones for time, quality and accuracy in order to ensure progress and closure are achieved.
- Review schedule changes and identify the impact to the organization in order to identify whether the changes can be absorbed or require a change of schedule and resource assignment.
- Provide assessment of existing business practices and definition or guidelines for future practices or requirements.
- Identify process improvement opportunities and prioritize which opportunities should be slated for implementation.
- Provide informal project status and communications to project team members and various user communities throughout the engagement.
This role will require an individual with strong management and communication skills who understands the operation and objectives of the business software implementation. It is possible to have an outside consultant or vendor consultant and internal person share the Project Leader responsibilities, however, advance planning must dictate specific roles and responsibilities if this is the case. The Project Leader is the person responsible for the overall project planning and progress toward agreed upon goals. This individual is responsible for monitoring, maintaining, and adjusting the project plan (based on the input and deliverables of team members), providing experienced leadership strategies to the Executive Sponsor, and ensuring the management and effectiveness of the application consultants assigned to the project. Other responsibilities include reviewing and assisting with issue resolution, coordinating task dependencies, and establishing milestone project goals that keep the project on time and within budget.
Other Project Leader tasks and responsibilities may include the following:
- Conduct or facilitate the Implementation Project Kick-off and Status meetings.
- Manage the customer relationship with the software vendor and outside consultants.
- Confirm a solid understanding of the organization's objectives and expectations; if necessary, reset objectives and expectations.
- Approve the implementation schedule and project plan as well as all changes to the schedule and plan.
- Provide the periodic measurement of plan vs. actual with variance analysis.
- Track, monitor and report on the project status (percent complete vs. costs expended; hours remaining, etc).
- Continually monitor scope, time frame, budget and risk; Act as a watch dog for scope creep or scope changes.
- Manage project resources to assure maximum efficiency, effectiveness and resource utilization.
- Manage internal or external consultants assigned to the project.
- Perform periodic risk management for both project risks and people risks and develop all necessary mitigating strategies. Significant or high impact risks should be escalated and addressed with the Executive Sponsor.
- Recognize change management issues and risks at their earliest introduction; develop recommendations and mitigating strategies.
- Periodically measure and confirm stakeholder, Executive Sponsor, Champion, and Key User satisfaction; and address non-satisfactory team issues.
- Manage proposal, engagement letter and/or contractual fulfillment with outside vendors.
- Chair regular meetings with the vendor.
- Perform or supervise all communications reporting, including status reports and update e-mails or memo's to the Executive Sponsor, Project Team and Steering Committee.
- Review and approve vendor invoices and verification of payments within agreed upon terms.
- Validate that the deliverables from the project represent the views and meet the business needs of the Steering Committee and/or the Executive Sponsor.
- Define and monitor corrective actions where necessary. Escalate repeatedly missed corrective actions.
- Assist the Executive Sponsor or Steering Committee with resolving issues and solving problems upon request.
- Validate resource allocation according the statement of work and level of effort.
- Approve or recommend changes to project scope, project organization or allocation of project resources in a timely manner.
- Assist in change management issues as they relate to users of the system.
- Support the Executive Sponsor and Steering Committee in their achievement of project goals and objectives.
- Verify communication of schedule and meeting changes to all participants.
- Monitor open tasks and issues list.
- Assist in resolving Project Team or project member disputes.
- Act as main liaison to the Executive Sponsor and vendor consultants.
Functional Champions / Team Leads
Functional Champions or Team Leads spearhead individual functional areas (such as SFA, Marketing and Customer Service in a CRM implementation). These individuals are sometimes called Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and are stakeholders from the department or line of business most affected by a designated software module (e.g., SFA), have complete domain area knowledge and are dedicated to the project (and are typically relieved of traditional day-to-day responsibilities from departmental operations while participating on their area of the project) for the project duration. Functional Champions must be empowered to make decisions for their domain area and their user community. They lead the initial software configuration efforts and decision analysis during the Conference Room Pilot (CRP) phase. They also determine the current and proposed transaction flows within the software modules. Their primary objective is to gather process and configuration information from the key users and configure the business system based on that information. These individuals may develop process flowcharts for the existing and new system processes, develop methods of resolving process gaps, identify report and data requirements for the respective modules to support the end users, and identify data conversion requirements. Functional Champions are responsible for coordinating and facilitating key user meetings, system configuration, module testing, scheduling key users for system tests, preparing process documents, approving training documentation, and some end user training.
Additional Team Lead tasks and responsibilities include the following:
- Identification and analysis of user requirements within their functional areas.
- Provide expert knowledge of the subject area.
- Understand the “as is” environment and provide functional expertise and knowledge of the existing business practices.
- Be responsible for the successful configuration, processing and implementation of functional area software modules.
- Reconcile the user requirements to the new system capabilities.
- Liaise between the user community and project team; Act as a mentor and liaison to other users of that functional area.
- Represent the user interests in system design and software configuration planning meetings.
- Design and configure the software parameters for each module.
- Identify and implement business process improvements and changes.
- Act as the transformation agent to identify process improvement opportunities within the new CRM, ERP or business software application.
- Actively promote the adaptation of business practices and adoption of processes utilized by the new software system.
- Sponsor the change management required for cautious or resistant users.
- Work with users to develop necessary processes or procedural changes to accommodate the software application.
- Work with users to foster active participation and ownership of the new system.
- Schedule and provide dedicated end-user training without interruptions.
- Provide a communication link between project teams through attendance at regular Project Team or Team Leader meetings.
- Contribute to status reporting.
- Thoroughly test the software and associated procedures to confirm that the primary business requirements are met.
- Input issues into the main log (e.g. open issues log) that surface during configuration, training or other team activities and also follow-through on resolution of those issues.
All CRM applications and business software systems that operate on a relational database management system (RDBMS) require skilled SA's for steady operation. A System Administrator (SA) is needed in order to take and maintain ownership of the new CRM. With software as a service (SaaS) CRM systems, the internal DBA (database administrator) role is generally eliminated and the SA role is somewhat lessened, however, remains essential. Although technical experience is not required, the SA is often a more technical resource to the project team and actively involved throughout the implementation project and post production processing. The SA will utilize packaged tools built in to the CRM system for nearly all SA functions.
Common SA tasks and responsibilities include the following:
- Software configuration and setup:
- Data importing: Validate cleanliness of data, scrub data and perform imports of accounts, contacts and/or opportunities into the CRM system (e.g. uploading user's data from prior systems). Reconcile and verify import results.
- Web site configuration options: Selecting among available options for system-wide utilization.
- User Interface (UI) management: Assist management or users with the customization or modification of Views, Menus or navigation.
- User and role management: The creation, modification and removal of all user's and roles within the CRM system. Resetting user passwords when necessary.
- Security administration: Assigning and managing overall system security, user security and account-level security.
- Field level data list management and UDF configuration: Assist management or Functional Champions with determining or modifying acceptable values from all data list fields throughout the CRM application and assigning or utilizing User-Defined Fields (UDFs) at each page.
- Document Library configuration.
- System training: Assist in initial staff training, and possibly training to new-hires on an ongoing basis.
- Query and reports management: Provide users training to create or modify queries throughout the system.
- Management & Administration:
- Troubleshooting: Provide first level response to user issues or problems. Most issues or problems that are user-oriented will be resolved by SA, all other issues and problems may be escalated to the vendor help desk.
- User view management: Assist user's with creation or modification of individual page views.
- Monitor system usage: Verify utilization and enterprise-wide adoption (subject to business need and security) and sharing of customer information.
- Continued user and role Management: Updating memberships and deleting outdated users and roles.
- Resetting user passwords.