This article is the fourth in a series on building an effective strategic plan and budget for technology. The first article discussed establishing your current technology baseline. The second article helped define the direction technology was headed. The third article established a one page plan that could be used to communicate and implement technology change in the firm.
The final article of this series will discuss how to implement a technology plan in the firm. In many firms, this is a black ops project that no one knows about. Unfortunately, this method (although easier) will not elevate the technology department into a change leader. The focus of this article is not how to finish projects, but rather how to communicate the project progress over time.
There are three key elements to leading change through technology in the firm:
- Involve key firm members at major meetings, especially when changes are necessary
- Communicate updates to your firm in relevant and regular language
- Deliver projects on time with proactive updates before and after release
Involve key firm members at major meetings, especially when changes are necessary
The technology strategic plan was created with the help of a diverse team in the firm. Once the plan is complete, it may seem clear that the team should be disbanded to let the "real work” start. This is an error.
Major milestones on the strategic plan should be highlighted with a project update meeting. Project updates should be brief and focused on recent updates. Everyone in the room should have the agenda ahead of time as well as materials to review. The meeting should be a place to ask and answer questions for the firm.
The meeting should involve team members as well as key communicators in the firm. A key communicator is a person who gets technology and has respect in a particular department. The job of a key communicator is to buffer questions and concerns, as well as provide feedback to recent technology project completions. This group will vary based on the size of the firm, but it shouldn’t be too small.
If changes are necessary to a project, this information needs to be prepared and communicated at a regular project update meeting. Preferably, it would be proposed as a project risk early enough to adjust timeframes and communicate to the firm.
Communicate updates to your firm in relevant and regular language
Take advantage of regular firm communication channels to let the firm know about recent or upcoming projects. This communication should not discuss the technology being implemented, but the resulting impact on the firm. In addition, you can publish the list of key communicators if firm employees have questions. This is especially important when communication system changes occur (such as new phone systems or unified communication rollouts.)
Updates need to be tailored to your firm’s technology aptitude. The third article in this series discussed these two types of strategic plans:
- Bottom up technology focus – This technology direction is useful for firms that are trying to shore up issues within their technology department. The goal here is excellent technology services to the firm.
- Top down collaboration focus – Some firms already have a strong technology department. In this instance, the goal of the technology plan should be to enhance the leadership role that the technology area has in the firm.
If you have a bottom up technology focus, the firm-wide communication should explain how each major project is moving the firm closer to excellent technology service. For example, replacing a backup solution with one that allows for a live switchover could detail the benefits to firm productivity. Instead of detailing the type of backup, mention that the firm would need just a few minutes to be productive again in the event of a catastrophe that took the main servers down.
For a top down plan, the firm communication should focus on the role technology has in improving the profitability and productivity of the firm. For example, an update might detail improvements to phone system that allow for flex and mobile working arrangements. The language would focus on how the update allows audit groups to tie in with the office, or how home work is improved through the new soft client on every person’s laptop.
Updates should be regular and emphasize benefits to the firm, regardless of the type of strategic plan you have. Screenshots, or even better, short videos, can help detail the improvements in a story format that shows a feature in use.
Deliver projects "on time” with proactive updates before and after release
Delivering projects to the firm is a trust building endeavor. Trust is built in through consistent performance. Make every effort to deliver projects on the delivery date. This is best done with consistent attention to project management as well as padded deadlines that allow for the unforeseen to occur.
However, technology projects are full of wildcards. Everyone reading this article has been a part of a technology rollout that "didn’t go right” or had to be delayed by factors outside of everyone’s control.
The goal is to define "on time” as a project that has a well communicated delivery date. In some instances, this timeline will need to shift. Projects can still be "on time” in the firm’s eyes if the communication is proactive, educated and forward thinking.
Let’s take an updated phone system as the example. During the course of the project, the team decided to go with an untested type of phone connect (SIP trunks) in their area. The vendor assured the team that the technology was ready. Upon evaluation and testing with the onsite hardware, it was discovered that the SIP trunks were providing a significant delay between what was heard and what was spoken.
Being on schedule in this scenario would mean providing the team with a subpar project delivery. If the project updates were occurring, and the communication was consistent with the firm, it would be clear to the firm that a compromise was needed. In this instance, the trust built up in the firm would allow for a flexible timeline, and the firm would know that the technology was being delayed in the best interests of the firm.
Do not underestimate the value of regular, steady communication. This builds a level of understanding in the firm. When this is combined with high quality project delivery and consistent service from the technology team, you can start planning for projects that move the firm ahead.
When this planning starts, build on your current success, but be sure to take time to start fresh. Although many aspects of your firm have improved, technology is one place in the firm that benefits from a complete review. Oftentimes solving one problem unearths others. Consistent attention to seeing and solving these issues will make the technology department crucial to the success of the firm.
In closing, technology plans and the subsequent improvements are most successful when the communication is collaboration. Make sure and involve the firm in the successes of your plan. Discuss the value to the firm, not in dollars or specifications, but in impact to productivity or coworker success. It will benefit the technology leader, the team, and most importantly, the firm.