You may think I would have a somewhat biased view on the factors behind a successful deployment of software, but 22 years has given me a good sample to consider and reflect on what ingredients go into that smooth and calm roll out.
I believe it is divided into a number of of key ingredients:
and each must be demonstrated on both sides.
The Vendor knows their software but not the Client team (no matter how much pre-sales investigation there is, the nuances and particular traits of the Stakeholder and User teams will only unveil themselves fully when you are upto your eyeballs and in full flow.
The Client knows their team but has little idea of the innerworkings of your software, no matter how many demonstrations and workshops you provide there are assumptions made by the audience which the vendor could never have predicted (in their wildest dreams in some cases! - "you mean you have to put the data in yourself?"
On both sides a collaborative Leadership team is vital, both with the same single goal... this will work. The key word here is collaborative. Gannt charts at the ready will still not provide for the Rumsfeld's Unknowns.
In truth, the Vendor has probably done this before, granted a different team, perhaps different scale, different challenges but the milestones are the same and the methodology follows the a similar path. The Client might install new software once every 5-8 years maybe longer, persuading the client to follow your lead, respond with information by return, provide everything asked for, when its asked for and be proactive in learning all they can, is a good position to take as a Client. Oh, and not changing the goal posts without accepting the resulting amendments to budget and timeframe.
I believe you know you will have a good deployment suprisingly early on. This is down to the engagement. Core systems in the Insurance Industry are not the same as rolling out the latest version of MSOffice. They all require careful and tailoured set up and configuration. Despite Market practitioners belief that they all work the same, or they are "just like any other Broker", or the best of all.... "just want the standard reports" each of the 30 or so deployments I have done have seen the Client operating differently from the all the others. This is where flexibility comes in, not just of the Project team but if possible the sofware too. in a changing market with products presenting new challenges an excellent weapon in the armoury is a flexible solution that can adapt as the Client needs to adapt. if your software is flexible it helps the you as a Vendor to be flexible - "No" is a valid answer, but its great if you can limits its use!
There will always be one (hopefully not more) fly in the ointment - a disrupter, and not of the positive kind. As a vendor the last thing you want is to appear a tattle tail; going to the Principle and sneaking on the one that isn't pulling their weight, or worse still appears to be proactively de-railing everyone else's best efforts. But deploying all the charm and inclusion tactics in the world can still fall short if someone is really set on causing an issue. There are some big bucks at stake and in some cases people's careers. If someone needs to be put back in line then alas it can fall to the Vendor to dish the dirt!
But what if that disrupter is one of the stakeholders? The the Vendor needs those diplomacy skills that Trump's Cabinet would treasure! The hearts and minds are a fundamental part of the process. No matter how good you believe your solution, and team are you have to earn the trust of the Client and that starts after you have been handed the contract.
Whatever is being installed, whoever makes up the team, a strong collaborative leadership team with pragmatic and flexible approach within the plan, careful and indepth learning on both sides and a "can do" attitude is definately my recipe.
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