Technology is a driving force behind most business operations today. With so many back-end processes dependent on tech, technology projects to install, expand, and improve these vital systems are a top priority for most companies. But unless tech is your organization’s core business, you probably need to rely on vendors to help out when it’s time for an upgrade.
There’s no doubt implementation partners play an important role in keeping your most important technology platforms humming along. In addition to the targeted systems expertise these vendors provide, your technology projects—whether they’re aimed at scaling up existing systems or migrating to something entirely new—should also include support from an experienced outside consultancy.
To understand the value of adding external PM expertise to your team, consider some of the risks and concerns that frequently accompany large, complex, or strategic technology projects.
One primary issue, which teams may not identify (or acknowledge) until problems arise, is that project management isn’t your implementation partner’s sweet spot. The skill sets within their organization are focused on competencies such as software development and system integration. Though they might offer project management as part of their services, their approach often applies a standard template of tasks to every customer job. There could be activities your project requires that aren’t included in their boilerplate list, such as connections to existing legacy systems, employee training for remote teams, allocation of internal labor resources, or other unique items.
An outside consultancy brings the kind of deep project management expertise necessary to ensure your technology initiative is planned and executed using a proven project management methodology. You won’t be left wondering if tasks have fallen through the cracks or if everything will be finished on time.
Technology projects typically involve multiple implementation partners. This provides the team with ample systems expertise, but it means that each vendor will likely develop and submit its own “master” plan for the project. Important milestones—open windows for beta testing or service cut over dates, for example—may not jive from one vendor’s plan to the next. This leaves your organization trying to sort out which schedule is accurate and how the various activities line up with each other. Holding providers accountable for their tasks becomes increasingly difficult as everyone works from their own version of the plan.
A skilled project management partner uses their experience to develop a fully integrated master plan encompassing all of a project’s activities. This gives your technology partners the guidance they need to maintain alignment with your target completion date and ensure your team knows how your implementation is progressing at each step along the way.
It’s important to acknowledge that your organization and your implementation partners probably don’t share the same priorities. You have an ROI to achieve and there may be additional strategic projects set to begin once your technology initiative’s milestones have been reached. Maintaining alignment with the project’s approved timeline and ensuring the new system supports the company’s productivity goals may be among your top priorities. Technology vendors, on the other hand, make their revenue by billing for staff time in addition to providing the features and functionalities that come with their platforms. There’s little motivation for them to execute an implementation quickly or without the addition of change orders or expanded feature sets.
Your PM vendor’s sole focus is to drive your technology project to a successful completion. They have the experience to identify risks early in the planning process and to mitigate or avoid issues such as change orders, delays, requests for scope expansions, and other add-ons.