“Planning large-scale IT transformation is easy and straightforward!”
Said no one ever.
Unfortunately, companies sometimes move forward with a project even when they know they haven’t done their due diligence with planning. When you launch a massive software project with only a fuzzy idea of what you want done and no clear guidelines about who is responsible for what, no one should be surprised when the project fails.
But you’re not going down that road. You’re here to learn what pitfalls you should be aware of and how you can plan an IT transformation project that keeps your business efficient and productive—without becoming a casualty of the 55% IT project failure rate.
So let’s dig in.
Challenges of Large-Scale Software Transformation
Every software project has its challenges, but when you’re tackling software transformation on a large scale, those challenges become even more prominent. Here are three impending pitfalls you should be aware of:
Large-scale projects must address needs and requirements across the entire organization. Data tends to become siloed in all those various systems and departments, which means you’ll have to find ways to coordinate application development with departments that may not be the main stakeholders for a project. You’ll also need to integrate systems so they can share data—and that brings us to our next challenge.
2. Interdependency among work streams
When work streams depend on information from other departments, seamless integration is essential. That means you need a robust architecture in place to define how all the layers fit together, including security protocols and employee access.
3. Frequent refinements to user requirements
The more complex the project, the more likely it will be for you will have to refine user requirements frequently along the way. Of course, you should identify and plan for as many requirements as possible at the outset of the project, but you’ll also need to work closely with the project team during the development phase to be sure the software does all the things you need it to do.
These are just three challenges that can throw your project off track. There are a thousand others that can cost you time and money if you haven’t planned well.
So let’s take a look at how you can create a solid strategy for executing your project.
Nine Steps to Successful Software Transformation
There’s no need to risk the outcome of your project by charging ahead without a plan. You can avoid many of the pitfalls common to complex IT projects by following industry best practices in each of three project stages: business analysis, development, and testing. Let’s take a look at nine steps to successful IT transformation within the context of those three stages.
Before you start any project, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish in the context of your business. So this first stage requires careful analysis of your goals for the project and its desired outcomes.
Step 1: Identify Project Goals and Value Drivers
What do you want your IT department to look like in the future? This high-level question helps you move beyond your current pain points to scope out your long-term vision. This step should also develop a road map detailing what you want the project to accomplish, including specific value drivers such as:
* Improving end-user experience to boost productivity and/or customer experience
* Streamlining workflows to reduce business costs
* Implementing more effective data storage capabilities to increase security and efficiency
* Enhancing decision-making with analytics
* Solving current problems that stand in the way of efficient processes or customer service
Step 2: Designate a Project Manager
This person should be someone outside the development team. He or she needs to maintain a high-level view of what is happening at every stage of the project, what your budget is, and whether the project is on schedule. The project manager will also be closely involved with requirements elicitation, project scope, communication between stakeholders and team members, project analysis, and vendor management.
Step 3: Define Project Requirements and Scope
The more detailed your requirements are, the more accurate your project scope, budget, and schedule will be. Before launching the project, be sure you have a clear understanding of transformation scope, the work that needs to be done, all expected changes, and usability requirements. Project requirements should cover every phase of the project including architecture design, technical infrastructure, data needs, and implementation.
Step 4: Assemble the Team
The success of the project hinges on the skill of the team members doing the work. If you are outsourcing development, make sure you have a good communication process in place and that you have clearly communicated your requirements to the developers. You should also designate a technical lead who will manage the design and integration of the various components. This person will also serve as a liaison with the project manager to keep the project on track when new information comes to light during development.
With your plan in place, the next step is the software development itself. Implementation strategy and risk management should flow from the goals you have already identified.
Step 5: Nail Down Your Implementation Methodology
Decide how you will approach data governance, architecture, and application development. This methodology should be formalized and followed carefully through each stage of the project.
Step 6: Prepare Your Risk Management Strategy
Design a strategy for identifying short-term and long-term risks throughout the project. Use scenario planning to develop protocols for assessing and managing risks as they emerge, before they have an opportunity to derail the project.
Step 7: Follow the Software Development Life Cycle
Any successful software development methodology must follow six basic steps: requirement gathering, system analysis, system design, coding, testing, and implementation. Experienced developers should follow these basic steps already, but you’ll want to walk through the process with them ahead of time so you understand what will happen at each stage. The system should be defined and broken into smaller parts so developers know what each iteration should look like.
Sufficient testing can save you from a failed deployment and identify any integration problems or snags before you launch the system across the entire enterprise.
Step 8: Test At Each Step
Reserve enough time in your project schedule for a full-scale testing process. Run tests throughout the development phase to ensure that all of the components integrate successfully. Include both experienced testers (who know what to look for) and actual end-users (who will have to learn and use the system) in your pilot groups. As developers receive feedback, they can make changes immediately to reduce the amount of debugging needed later on. Do this before releasing each milestone or feature, so that you don’t have to make wholesale changes at the end of the project.
Step 9: Document Everything
Chronicle both successes and failures so they can be shared with stakeholders and used to improve your process for future projects. Include test configurations, installation steps, test results, mistakes, and recommendations in your documentation. Store your findings in your company’s organizational process assets so they can easily be accessed for future projects.
The best way to guarantee that your project will fail is to rush in without a plan, fail to keep the communication lines open, conduct minimal testing, and launch without knowing whether or not the software does what it is supposed to do. And that could mean financial disaster for your company.
But it doesn’t have to. Large-scale projects carry high stakes, and also high potential for rewards. That’s why it is vital that you plan sufficiently on the front end so you can avoid disaster down the road.
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