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Getting Support for a Technology Project

  • By Bryan Lapidus, FP&A
  • Published: 10/1/2019

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Change is hard. IT project implementations have a 30-60% failure rate, and overall change management projects have about a 70% failure rate, according to McKinsey & Co.

It does not have to be this bad; there is a 30% higher success rate when people are fully invested in the project. AFP’s new guide on Implementing a Planning System includes ideas on how to vest people in the success of the project.

PAMPER YOUR ENTHUSIASTS

There will be a group of enthusiasts, ambassadors and evangelists who will get behind the new initiative with energy. They may have been advocating for the new system already, and are pushing their own skills ahead on their accord. Cultivate these individuals as role models and valuable employees, give them extra training, and connect them to other tech enthusiasts around the company to further their skill-sharing. Members note that the project team members should be chosen for their enthusiasm and strong talent, and not simply whichever employees have availability.

Sometimes you may hire the enthusiast to bring that skillset and momentum inside. Cultivate your leading-edge adopters in addition minding the technologically hesitant members of your team.

HOLD HANDS WITH THE RESISTERS

At the other end of the spectrum are pockets of resistance. Without replicating or restating the rich trove of change management literature, the new FP&A guide offers a few insights from our research and members.

Empathy leadership. Where serious resistance exists, it helps to think about individuals passing through the various stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Project leaders should assess where an individual may be at a given time, address those concerns and have messages that fit where an individual may be at that point.

Socialization. Often, a reason for resistance is the fear of being left behind; to combat this, many companies have crafted social groups to help push individuals forward. One large company rotates all of its finance staff through a training session where they work in teams to solve problems using new technologies. Then, individuals return to their home offices and need to find opportunities to deploy the new skills and report back to their teams.

Participation. Allow people to have a say in the development by creating a partnership interaction with them, not a directive relationship. Testing, gathering feedback, and incorporating the ideas along the way demonstrates the value of their expertise.

CHANGE JOB DESCRIPTIONS

The skills and roles that got us to our current place will not be sufficient to get us to the next plateau, or the one after that. AFP 2019 speaker Jamie Cousin, manager of FP&A described her experience at ServiceMaster that necessitated work with HR to change job titles and responsibilities:

“In finance, some job descriptions like mine took on the tone of accounting information systems, where before it was all about financial modeling and analyzing results. I have gone for SQL training and now can write basic scripts to pull data from servers. For example, if a number is not right, I need to go behind the number and figure out what is wrong. Is it picking up the wrong business unit, is the field null, or change the data type (integer to a string)?

“In new roles that we hire for, we ask what are your systems exposure and responsibilities. I would recommend any college graduate understand that the work is not building spreadsheets… the spreadsheets are doing the work. You are going to want to use the systems in the most efficient manner possible and knowing the code will help you do that.”

CREATE A CULTURE OF CHANGE

This is not a technology project; it is an investment in the people who deliver services to the organization. Therefore, the “go live” implementation date is not the most important major date, it is about the utilization of the software: when we get the budget done in half the time everyone uses the system, or when weekend work is not mandatory!

The new operating model includes the ongoing delivery of change. Where traditional projects have a defined beginning and end, the new model is a process of regular updates that is part of the everyday fabric of the organization. That is the only way to manage the accelerating pace of technology and systems that seem to roll onto the market before the current ones have time to get stale. The expectation is change.

Business are competing on the speed of learning, and so learning needs to become a mindset and continual activity. The tools of finance are changing and will continue to change, and you need to be able to constantly upgrade your team. Viewed that way, a planning system is a critical step on the journey that will be revisited often.

For more insights, download the AFP FP&A Guide to Implementing a Planning System, Part 1 here.

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