Productivity and Automation projects have been rife in every vertical over the last 20 or so years, under the banner of Innovation, Disruptive Technology or Digital Transformation. Call it what you like, but it all boils down to being a project focussed on improving productivity or task automation. I have often been asked what the secret sauce is to deliver a successful project like these; the answer is simple: PEOPLE
Usually these projects focus around the triumvirate of People, Process and Systems, with the effort spent on improving customer service or experience, or a focus on the bottom line of a business process. Let’s explore what this looks like in reality.
Project teams will focus their efforts on designing the Holy Grail of productivity projects, the Gold Standard Business Process, which will have been mapped out using brown paper, post-it notes, or maybe even Visio. A lot of time and effort is invested in producing a document of how a business currently operates or how it intends to operate on completion of the project. For those advanced business process designers, there may even be some metrics built into this process to determine a rudimentary business case or return on investment.
Often, this business process also becomes a functional specification for the Systems that are needed to underpin the project and outline the changes that are needed to the business’s technology stack to deliver the Gold Standard Business Process. Whether it is a series of changes to the business’s ERP platform, the introduction of new software, or the implementation of productivity enablement tools like Microsoft 365 apps, Systems will be needed to deliver the project. This section of the project is likely to draw the closest of scrutiny from the board. There will be some healthy scepticism about the business case being delivered but the likely cost of technologically enabling a project is the area of most focus. Stakeholders will seek reassurance that costs are accurate, fixed price and will not run away with development. Project teams should be well drilled with their own board’s appetite to risk and financial control, so a lot of time is invested in this aspect of a project.
So finally to PEOPLE. We can do some training on the Gold Standard Business Process, and everyone will get a long just fine once the system settles in, right?
Step aside and consider the nature of a productivity project – what does it say to your staff? It says you can work harder and faster. What does an automation project say? It says we can do your job another way with a system. Either way, these are a direct threat to your staff and they are going to behave like humans do – they are going to feel threatened.
Invest the time in providing the space for people to talk about their concerns and if the outcome of the project is to redeploy staff in other roles or build capacity for future business growth, be honest and tell them. Seek confidence in the business’s people at every level all the time.
Involve staff from an early stage by sharing your Gold Standard Business Process. Make sure you have a dedicated group of Users from the community that are helping with the systems design. Use these people as ambassadors to the project and allow them to communicate freely with other staff.
Finally, remember change management is an alchemy, not a science. Provide time and space for people to talk to the project team. Regularly showcase systems developments to reduce the surprise factor of implementation and to grow project awareness. Communicate often, openly and be clear about the desired outcomes of the project. Celebrate your successes and enjoy the ride as your People join you on your successful journey.
So the secret sauce to a successful project delivery sits within your business already. It’s the people you employ.
by Martyn Wells
Well Technology Services Ltd
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