PM Solution Adoption: Build it and they may not come

Cella has been advocating for project management tool adoption since we were established in 2009. According to our first In-House Agency survey in 2010, only 62% of teams had adopted this type of technology. For those that had implemented a project management solution, most had a home-grown system based on File Maker Pro database software or were using spreadsheets. Over the last 10 years, the adoption of this technology has changed dramatically. According to our 2018 In-House Agency Survey across all team sizes, 79% now use PM tool software, 88% if the team is above 20 ppl and 95% if the team is above 50 ppl. While most teams have bought into this technology, many are struggling to get the full advantages this software can provide. We see some common mistakes that lead to low or poor adoption.

Lack of Change Management

Change management is hard, but critical, and requires leadership advocacy and team communications to set expectations and be successful. This is particularly true for technology transformation where there is a steep learning curve in mastering new applications. As a result, in the absence of a change management plan, given the opportunity to opt out, many users will. It is critical that leadership explains why project management tool implementation and adoption is important, what the benefits to the users will be and to set the expectations that adoption is required. Cella sees many teams that have only partially adopted a tool with some staff using the system as intended and others not using it at all. In addition to leadership advocacy and a robust communications plan, testing, training, and support must also be included in the initiative.

Inadequate Tool Selection Process

Another common mistake in-house agencies make is the failure to follow an appropriate process in the selection of the right project management solution. These tools can be quite complex and can support many different use cases but the only use case that is important to you is one that meets your team’s unique needs. Spending the time up front to identify your detailed requirements and working with vendors to determine how they would support your requirements is critical. If you don’t engage in this practice, you may find yourself with a feature-rich tool that is too complicated to use or just as bad, does not fulfill your needs. It is critical that you leverage a cross-functional team to identify tool requirements and vet potential vendors. This will allow for appropriate team member representation and guarantee long-term advocacy as well as ensure that you have a full view of requirements.

Poorly Designed Workflows

Too often we see clients struggle because of poor workflows. They are sometimes too complex at 100+ tasks and sometimes too general and not well designed. It is important to have optimized workflows entered into the tool if you intend to use it for workflow and resource management…two of the tool’s key benefits. Cella believes it’s generally best to create workflow templates by job type and Tier. A print piece will use different resources and have different tasks than a website. Also, project complexity or Tier plays a role in process. Two projects of the same type would have very different workflows if one was a Tier1 new creative job requiring discovery and concepting phases, while the other very same type of deliverable only required changes to an existing asset making it a Tier 3 job with fewer phases and resourcing needs. Too many groups expect the vendor to be the expert at workflow, but the vendors are software developers not process engineers with deep expertise in your industry. The tool needs to be configured to support your unique optimized processes.

Lack of Adequate Resources

Many teams fail due to lack of internal resources. In-house groups are busy with the day to day workload and these tools require a lot of resources to select, implement and maintain that most teams don’t have to spare. It may be most efficient to partner with an experienced external implementor as they will not only know the tool capabilities but have time to focus on building and testing the system. Even if you secure an outside resource to assist with implementation, it is important that your team is involved in selection and maintenance. Most groups will need at least ½ FTE to act as the system admin. Larger teams will require more staff. Someone needs to support users and conduct training. Another critical long-term need includes supporting continuous improvement by adopting new features and making configuration changes to improve efficiency. Be cognizant that this transformation will not be easy and it will require a significant amount of resources to be successful.

While the selection, implementation, and adoption of a project management tool may seem daunting, and for some it is, many teams are succeeding. To be clear, Cella has never seen a team that is 100% satisfied with their implementation at initial launch. It takes time to optimize these systems. But the benefits are clear and well worth the effort.

dm04r 2Cella Senior Consultant Dan Mucha brings more than two decades of results-oriented thinking and a record of success to bear on every challenge. His background includes co-founding and guidance of a vanguard marketing services firm to 13 consecutive profitable years—with record performance in productivity and increased shareholder value. As a consultant, Dan helps organizations with business unit strategy and planning; process evaluation and re-engineering; and financial/workflow system evaluation, design, and implementation.

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