The Project Management Institute estimated that as of 2017, organizations were wasting an average of $97 Million for every $1 Billion invested due to poor systems implementation. As a nonprofit, you cannot afford to make a mistake with your systems implementation. This is part 2 of our 4 part blog series that will help your nonprofit unlock its technology potential. Click here for part 1. This is adapted from our e-book. If you would like to access the complete e-book, please click here: https://mailchi.mp/modrahconsulting/comprehensive-project-implementation-guide-for-nonprofits
All projects create change within an organization. That’s true whether you’re planning to install a couple of new workstations, upgrade your network, or embark on a year-long digital marketing campaign. Change is natural. It’s normal. It’s also fraught with risk.
The first step in any project implementation is to conduct a risk assessment and then determine what you’ll need to do to manage potential fallout from the project. The potential risks to your organization run a wide gamut and include technology-related risks, audience-related risks, and personnel-related risks, in addition to things like potential budget and schedule overruns, data security issues, and the like.
Key Elements in Risk Management
To ensure that you can manage risks, you must start from the beginning: what has the project been tasked to deliver? What is the goal? What’s the project’s vision? What is its scope? What specific deliverables will it provide?
With this information, you can then begin researching and identifying potential risks. For instance, if you’ll be rolling out a new software platform that allows collaboration across teams and departments, you might find that the scope and functionality create potential risks, such as:
· How do you control access to restricted/sensitive information on the platform?
· How do you train users to make the best use of the new software?
· Does the rest of your technology stack integrate with the new platform?
Assess each element listed above (goal, vision, scope, etc.) and map out potential risks, breakdowns, bottlenecks, and other trouble areas.
Once you have identified potential risks, you’ll need to take things further by prioritizing them. This can be done by severity, by the ease of correction, or by some other prioritization method. You may find that you need to start with the highest level risks first or that it works better to begin with risks that can be mitigated fastest. Other organizations may choose to form multiple smaller teams, with one handling different risk categories.
Finally, you’ll need to monitor risk throughout the process. Use your risk management plan to track potential impacts, as well as mitigation actions. Your team should meet regularly throughout the project to discuss all risk-related aspects. That takes us to the next part – planning and implementation.
Planning & Implementation
With your risks accurately mapped out, it’s time to move on to the planning and implementation stage. We’ll break this chapter down into two separate sections for easier digestion.
Project planning is perhaps the most nebulous yet critical aspect of the entire process. Things still feel “up in the air” because you have yet to nail down specifics. It can feel chaotic and frustrating, but it doesn’t have to. Follow the simple framework below and you can tame that chaos.
1. What’s the Problem?
Start with the problem. What will the project solve? What will it enable? This is not necessarily the function of the project – it’s the real problem that it will solve. For instance, to use the example from chapter one, perhaps the new software platform you’re implementing is designed to address communication challenges and lack of collaboration.
2. Know Your Stakeholders
Once you’ve identified the problem the project will fix, you need to know the stakeholders. Who’s involved? To what degree? Who will be affected and do they have a voice in the process? Who will be contributing resources? Who will benefit from the project’s deliverables/outcomes? Consider this from all aspects, including your nonprofits’ decision-makers, donors, volunteers, and end beneficiaries of your services. All stakeholders should be involved in the planning process, at least to some extent.
3. Set Objectives
Next up, you need to decide what your objective is for the project. To do this, you’ll need to take all the expectations of your stakeholders and mold them into something new – a set of goals toward which your project will work.
4. Create a Strategy and Build Your Team
Finally, you need a strategy – think of this as a map that you’ll follow from project inception through going live and beyond. It should contain key milestones that build on one another and guide your team forward. Speaking of your team, now’s the time to assemble them and to create a budget for your project.
Once planning is out of the way, its time to move on to project implementation. Let's dive into this in part 3 of the series next week. Make sure to subscribe so that you are notified when the next part is posted!