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Readiness: The #1 Predictor of Project Success

By Eileen Strider, Marie Benesh and Wayne Strider

The Vice President was worried. The project to replace their administrative systems was gaining support and speed, but was the organization really ready to start? Could they succeed or would they be added to the litany of organizations with failed software projects? They hadn’t undertaken a major project in years.  They had bad memories from recent past projects involving software packages.  This project was going to change the way the whole organization worked, certainly staff’s job duties and maybe even the organization structure. They were going to have to work together cross-functionally to gain any benefits. There were some seriously broken relationships that were going to be critical to the success of the project. He wasn’t sure how to get straight answers to address his concerns.  What he needed was a PCC Project Readiness Assessment.

In this blog, we are going to shamelessly promote our PCC Project Readiness Assessment.

A Project Readiness Assessment asks the question, “How ready are you and your organization to take on and complete this project?”  In order to answer that, you have to determine what “ready” means.

We look at five key areas that organizations need to address in order to effectively start and complete a project. They are generally areas of risk that can cause havoc as a project progresses.

The areas included in the assessment are:

Executive Sponsorship and Decision Making

We look at how your organization plans to manage project scope, user and stakeholder expectations, and whether you have clearly defined and communicated the project’s goals and objectives. Leadership support and sponsorship are the next areas that we evaluate – how clearly are the leadership roles defined, do the sponsors have a clear set of expectations for their own role and how that impacts the success of the project. In addition, we look for design principles for decision-making, or how decisions will be made. Is this decision-making  policy clearly written and communicated to all stakeholders?

Business Requirements and Impacts

Because identification of business requirements is often not documented at a detailed level for off-the-shelf software, we want to know how the product was selected and the expectations for functionality that the organization has for the outcome.It is important to identify key academic and administrative stakeholders (university setting) or key operational unit stakeholders (corporate setting) to assure their involvement in the project. We look for your organization to have identified current business process issues and improvement opportunities as well as unique Client business processes and needs. And we assess the organization’s awareness of potential vendor software product business functionality.

Project Management Needs and Impacts

This next area is likely one your organization focuses on more intently, but often, assumptions are made that everything in this category is taken care of. We look at the processes of project leadership and management, including tracking of budget vs. actual costs and schedule. By reviewing project structure, governance, roles & responsibilities and staffing, we can identify gaps in the organization and help you to figure out ways to address them. Project budget and funding are always key aspects of a project assessment to evaluate the reasonability of the cost estimates. Finally, we look to see if project schedule constraints and expectations have been documented and mitigation strategies developed.

Technical Requirements and Impacts

We can assess technical staff resources and skills required and whether the organization has adequately filled those needs. And we look for a solid awareness of potential vendor software product technical architecture and development tools, as this can often be such a large change for the technical organization that not enough time is built into the project plan for training and skill-building. We assess whether your infrastructure plans are in place and how you plan to manage the changes in your technical environment, whether they be local or hosted in the cloud.

Organizational Change Readiness

As we mentioned in our podcast, 5 Key Aspects of Culture that Can Impact Your Project, we assess the cultural norms that could impact the project. We look at how the organization is aligned with regards to the project and potential business process changes the project may cause. Are communication plans in place and do they cover all the channels that can be used to reach all of your audiences? Workforce readiness indicates whether the individuals who are impacted by the project are prepared for changes in their work or even a realignment to a different organization. Another area we evaluate is the support structures and strategies for support that need to be defined and implemented for a period of time at and immediately following your go-live. Lastly, we look to see that adequate and effective training plans are in place to support the individuals working on the project, such as IT resources needing new tools training, as well as end user training to support new business process and systems.

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