It’s so common it’s almost cliché. You’re on the verge of launching a new software platform project, you’ve sifted through all the available options, and you’ve decided to move forward with the project. Then someone says, “Of course, it will take time to achieve the maximum results. This is a long-term strategy, not a quick fix.”
You know this is true. Any project worth its bits and bytes should be a long-term solution, and that often means it will take time to ramp up to its full potential. But you need demonstrable impact in terms of revenue, productivity, or other business goals sooner rather than later.
So how can you chart the fastest course to impact and measurable ROI without sacrificing quality?
What Factors Affect ROI?
Why do more than half of IT projects fail? Failure to align the business case with company strategy accounts for less than stellar results in many cases. Another problem is that ROI may not always be easy to measure, especially since it often depends on less concrete measurements like efficiency or customer satisfaction. Still, getting the most out of a project means accounting for those factors so you can prioritize your resources and measure results.
Here are a few elements that can undermine ROI:
Lack of buy-in
Whether it happens on your executive team or with your end users, lack of buy-in causes delays as you invest additional resources into analyzing, advocating, training, and execution.
Failing to draw out all the requirements, perform sufficient risk analysis, choose the right partner, or evaluate resources effectively on the front end of the project will result in delays. Poorly planned projects burn through more time, money, and other resources as you operate in reactive mode—and sometimes they don’t even reach the finish line at all.
Inadequate skill sets
If your team doesn’t have the right skills to complete the project efficiently, you’ll have to double back and correct problems or bring in additional personnel late in the game. That can delay your project launch as you work out bugs or manage change requests.
Simple projects and processes use less time and money than complex ones. The goal is to create functional, efficient software that serves the needs of your organization. Don’t go overboard with capabilities you don’t really need.
These are just examples, and you may encounter many other ROI hang-ups during the course of your project. Charging ahead without putting all the right structural elements in place is the fastest way to run into trouble. But the good news is that you don’t have to fall victim to these project saboteurs.
8 Ways to Boost ROI
Ultimately, achieving higher, faster ROI comes down to better planning. Here are seven ways to improve your process:
1. Develop a technology roadmap
Know what you’re building and map out the steps to getting there. Software projects differ in their goals, budget, and scope, but the basic process should follow a predictable outline, including these steps:
* Know your business objectives. What are your goals and what steps will you take to get there? Who will benefit most and what problems will be solved? How will you know if you’ve been successful?
* Follow the money. Hone in on one or two critical projects that will add the most value. Choose systems that directly support revenue generation or other measurable impact.
* Build a strong business case for new software or upgrades. Demonstrate that the project is worth the investment using a cost/benefit analysis. Look at both quantitative and qualitative measures to assess risk and feasibility.
2. Involve stakeholders early and often
Get approval from high-level decision makers who understand the potential for business impact. With their support, it will be easier to speed up implementation and deliver the promised results faster. Answer questions like:
* Is it necessary?
* Will it lower costs?
* Will it generate more revenue?
It’s not just executives you need to convince. You should also get support from other stakeholders at every level. End users play an important role in how long it takes to see results, so bring them on board with the change by demonstrating how the software will make their jobs more efficient, more effective, or more productive.
3. Assemble the right team
Having the right people on your team can make the difference between success and failure. You need skilled, qualified individuals who understand how their roles fit into the overall scope of the project. Team members should communicate well and work together so every project stage moves forward as quickly and smoothly as possible.
When you don’t have the right skills represented within the team, the project will need an outside expert in software development, project management, user experience, or any other aspect.
4. Develop a lean solution
Reduce waste, manage costs, and stay on schedule with the simplest version of the product that still achieves your objectives. Lean solutions establish a minimum viable product that tests your business case before launching a full-scale initiative. The goal is to reduce cost, waste and lead time while also improving quality and delivering higher employee satisfaction.
5. Invest in project management
A survey conducted by the Project Management Institute found that 73% of successful projects involve a high level of project management maturity. That includes practices like having an experienced project manager (sometimes with PMP certification), using risk management best practices, following standard project management processes, planning an effective change management strategy, and using agile methodologies. Investing in an experienced project manager or certifying someone on your team pays off big dividends in terms of meeting your business goals faster and at lower cost.
6. Handle change requests effectively
Software projects notoriously encounter hang-ups and changes during development. If you don’t have a process in place to manage change requests, you’ll find your project careening off track and requiring more time and money than you anticipated.
Agile methodologies make it easy to pivot quickly during the course of a project, but if you’re not careful they can become an excuse for not planning sufficiently. You’ll achieve faster impact if you perform due diligence on the front end of the project as you gather requirements and plan your sprints. When changes do arise, they won’t throw the entire project off schedule.
7. Hold someone accountable for implementation and savings
When your business case lays out a cost savings analysis or other benefits, you need a way to analyze whether or not the project actually achieved those goals. Intentional analysis of results at the conclusion of the project will motivate less waste and better use of resources throughout. When someone has to report back with measurable results, the business case carries more weight.
8. Measure and improve
Every project should include analysis and documentation. Measure your project against your goals and objectives, assess added value, and pinpoint problems and solutions over the course of the project. As you document these metrics, your process will evolve to deliver faster, stronger results.
Successful projects require effective planning, justification, and resources. They also require practical collaboration among developers and stakeholders in order to get the results you want.
When you set your project up this way, you’ll not only see initial results faster, but you’ll also have the right structure in place to achieve the maximum long-term results.
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