We’ve been sharing how to prepare and define your new information strategy. So far, our topics have covered some important stuff in shaping your ECM strategy:
- How to get buy-in from stakeholders across the organization
- How to obtain executive sponsorship and funding for the effort
- Assessing your current information strategy (Step 1)
- Setting a vision for your future information needs (Step 2)
- Analyzing the gaps in capability, technology, people and process (Step 3)
Part of the gap analysis requires you to ask pointed questions about each of the proposed changes needed to complete your new information strategy. The answers to your questions should reveal the potential benefits, risks, and costs of all the changes.
But that was then. Now, we discuss the fourth and final step before beginning the project itself. Step #4 is creating a phased approach to how you deliver the strategy.
Basing project phases on priorities
You don’t hear much about using a traditional waterfall method for a program – where every feature or change is completed and tested en masse – anymore. Businesses need to react to sudden change. It’s tough to do that with the waterfall method.
But we’re in luck! You can phase a project into short-, medium-, and long-term initiatives. Whether you call this approach “agile” or something else, the goal is the same. A phased approach allows IT to deliver positive, incremental change continually over the life of your project. More importantly, it allows for course corrections and adaptations based on evolving business needs.
Remember rating each change based on its relative merits? We’ve talked about this before, and it’s worth mentioning again:
- Benefits – the impact a project’s completion will have on the organization
- Risks – the potential for disruption to business processes and operations
- Costs – how many funds and resources and time for re-cooperation
You may have tagged these as “Low, Medium, or High” in priority, or placed monetary value on them. However you’ve approached it, these ratings reveal relative priorities of the changes, and let you base your project phases on immediate needs first.
Phase 1: Addressing an immediate need
Phase 1 changes have the greatest benefits and relatively low risk and cost. Or you could look at them as changes that require little time and resources to deliver, but will also
- Bring immediate efficiencies
- Have high user acceptance and satisfaction
- Improve product delivery (and customer satisfaction)
These changes may not be the flashiest, but should quickly deliver high value to the organization. That’s pretty sweet too, right? Apart from adding business value, these should loudly affirm that, yes, your new information strategy is on the right path.
Remember, though, that most new ECM programs have one or more drivers, or major features or promises that created the initial buy-in and sponsorship for the strategy. Since this stage is so visible, it’s tempting to put these drivers in Phase 1. However, if the money, time, and resources required are too high – not to mention risky – making them Phase 1 deliverables can get the project started on the wrong foot. Instead, go for quick wins that provide immediate benefit with low cost and risk.
Determining the medium- and long-term phases
In these next phases, reassess your priority order. Remember that positive organizational impact does matter, but risks and costs have to be weighed against that impact.
Remember, too, that it takes an average of 66 days for users to become proficient with even minor changes to their business applications. Even if a change will eventually increase efficiency it can cause a major disruption during that learning period. That’s not to say every user interface change should go last, but you do need to limit the number of anticipated disruptions.
Phasing doesn’t always mean pushing off larger efforts to later project phases, either. Determine if a change can be broken into smaller, discrete chunks, then identify chunks with a higher benefit to cost/risk ration for earlier phases. Then you’re really doing ECM strategy right.
High-risk and low-benefit items, even if they have high-visibility, should be left for the later phases.
Maybe the technology you need isn’t readily available or is still unproven. If so, proceeding could lock you in a risky technical solution. Or maybe a change is something you really want on the surface, but will cause major disruption to every user. Anything that impacts the end user is costly from a resource standpoint, carrying a higher potential risk.
Finally, we can’t foresee what technology will bring over the next two to five years or how it might affect your information strategy. Anything you delay to later phases are subject to those unforeseeable industry changes.
But that’s the beauty of phasing your project with the highest benefit to cost/risk ratio first. If the lower-value items evaporate tomorrow, it’s no big deal. Phasing your information strategy lets you see the good stuff now and be ready for what’s in store.