Have you ever started a project that you expected to take one month, and had it turn into six? Or wanted to launch a project, but worried that project management would take up too much of your time, so you decided not to do it at all? Without efficient processes to manage projects, they can feel overwhelming, especially when you have multiple projects underway at the same time. Ensuring everything gets done efficiently and nothing falls through the cracks can be done with a clear plan and sound processes.
As an example, let’s say your company has six departments that use individual customer relationship management (CRM) software and want to institute a single program for the entire company to use.
Step 1 – Clearly state your goal.
Making sure that your goal is evident to all parties and obtaining the support of your company’s leadership team is a key first step.
Step 2 – Create a plan with precise deadlines and action items – Project Management.
There are plenty of project management tools available for this step, but a simple spreadsheet also works. This step shouldn’t take more than a few hours. You can always make changes. For now, get an outline on paper to get things moving. Knowing the required tasks will help you avoid distractions that make projects more overwhelming and needlessly extend timelines. A chart, such as the one below, can also be used to present your plan to stakeholders so they can understand your time requirements and follow your progress.
Step 3 – Create a list of stakeholders and gather requirements from them all.
Doing this step correctly usually saves money and time. For example, if you assume only five departments are using a CRM program instead of six, you’ll miss an entire group of users who might have business-critical requirements.
Ask each department head if their department is using a CRM program. If they are, find out who uses it. Be sure also to include any executives who want to be kept informed. After you get a list from each group and are confident the list is complete, it’s time to move on to step four.
Step 4 – Meet with each team and list out their requirements.
Ideally, you can sit with them while showing you how they use the system to make sure they don’t miss any critical needs.
Ask users to give each requirement an importance rating of high, medium, or low.
- High = critical to their job, and there’s no other known way to do the task
- Medium = a workaround exists, but it would be somewhat inconvenient
- Low = nice to have, meaning it either doesn’t exist now, and they would like it, or it exists, but they could do without it
After going through this process with each group, create a consolidated list of requirements, and distribute them to all stakeholders. Then have a meeting to review the list and document approvals from each team. Ensuring everyone is clear on the requirements and that one group’s needs do not contradict another’s is critical. In my experience, bringing everyone together for an open but organized conversation saves a lot of time down the road.
Step 5 – Do some research on your options.
It’s easy to over-think this part and spend too much time trying to make the perfect decision on which software to use. A visual, prioritized matrix that organizes your thoughts and research can make that decision apparent.
I like to start by writing down options that quickly come to mind and then doing some online research to determine similar products. Choose three to six options that seem to address most of the requirements and list them across the top of a spreadsheet. Down the spreadsheet’s left side, list all the needs and the corresponding high/medium/low rankings.
Eliminate options that don’t meet the high criticality requirements. Then gather additional information (pricing, customer reviews, etc.) on the top two or three choices.
Schedule another meeting with stakeholders and present your analysis and recommendations. Be sure to document each team’s approval of the final decision.
Step 6 – Purchase and test the new software.
Include any security features you might be using. Take your time with this step. Like listing stakeholders and gathering requirements, this step will save you many headaches in the future. Have as many people test as possible to ensure there are no assumptions about the ease of use and ability to adapt to the new system.
Step 7 – Train users on how to use the new software.
How you train your users depends on how complicated the system changes are. Minimal changes can usually be covered by e a simple one-page instruction sheet sent by email. Large scale changes may require a full training program that includes webinars, hands-on learning, and other resource guides.
Step 8 – Deploy the new software.
Transfer the old systems’ data to the new one, making sure that you don’t lose anything. Have users review data in the new platform and check thoroughly for any missing data.
Step 9 – Create a procedure for ongoing support.
Give users a straightforward process on how to get help if they need it. That might be an FAQ sheet, a phone number to call, or a separate system to log a ticket.
So remember, the next time you start a project, keep things simple by following the process above or creating your own. The key is to have procedures in place that allow you to complete projects effectively and efficiently, so you’re not starting from scratch every time.