Where Projects Go Wrong… Part One

I am often asked when speaking with customers, “What do I have to worry about? Where do projects go wrong?”

I am asked this so often that I have decided to make a four-part blog series discussing each of these project-killing demons. As a former directory and messaging guy, you’d think I would be rattling of a bunch of technical blockers that cause projects to go off the rails, but in reality, this is almost never the case. Of course, if your deployment partner or internal staff have no idea what they are doing, you can get into trouble. For the sake of argument, let’s just say that the parties involved are competent at a minimum. Why is it then that I see IT guys high-fiving the successful migration and executives, yet users walking around with a sour taste in their mouths? It is because success of a true migration (let’s be honest it is actually a transformation) is not about getting the bits from point A to point B – it is about the experience of those affected along the way. The four areas that have the biggest impact of the success of a project are:

  1. Communications
  2. Executive Support
  3. Project Management
  4. User Adoption

Today’s blog will focus on communications…

Part 1: Communications

It is a common misnomer that users are resistant to change. Sure, they are never interested in change for change sake, but when they see value in what they are getting, it is not change they resist but how the change occurs that causes strife.

Going in for surgery can be scary. Imagine if the doctor stopped by your house on Tuesday night and said, “I need you to show up to the hospital tomorrow. You are sick, but don’t worry… You’ll be better when you wake up after surgery.” Questions come flooding to your mind. What are you going to do? How long will it take? How long will I be out of work? What can go wrong? What do I need to do? The list goes on… This is how your end users feel when you make a change to their core business tools when migrating to O365. Now imagine if that same doctor planned the surgery weeks in advance, went through what was wrong, how he will fix it, what he needs from you, what can go wrong, etc. This is precisely how we need to present change to our users.

Here are some of the steps to a successful communications plan:

  1. Migration Wave planning is key – make sure your early waves are “friends of the program” so you can get good feedback on your pilot communications packages.
  2. Communications should happen multiple times and build in level of specifics.
  • 30 – 14 Days Out: Office 365 is coming – Here’s why it’s good for you
  • 5 Days Out: Your group/agency/division is migrating this week. Here are some things you will be getting and some training videos to get you ready.
  • 2 Days Out: You are migrating in 2 days. Here are some FAQ’s.
  • 1 Day Out: O365 is coming tomorrow! Here is what you need to do… (Desktops, Mobile, special cases) with links to specific instructions, what exactly will change, and what to do if you need help.

These communication plans should be a collaborative effort between the Migration team, project management, and Training/User support staff. Too often, I have seen failed communications packages written by engineers and completely baffling end users and support staff.

This seems like an obvious plan but one that is not often followed. The devil is in the details here. Get your plan together and test it on your pilot users. Remember, if everyone in your pilot is IT staff there is no real testing of your communications plan. IT folks can often resolve issues on their own. I usually recommend a 2-stage pilot. Stage one being IT and stage two being some friendlies in the business units. This will help clarify the communications messages. Hopefully, this gets the juices flowing regarding just how important your communications plans need to be. Next installment we will talk about Executive support. Stay tuned.