7 Ways to Sustain Adoption of your PPM Solution, Post-Implementation: white paper

This white paper is part of our "From the trenches" collection.

Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) tools almost always cause a drastic shift in how projects are managed, tracked and reported across the organization. However, it is lost upon organizations that there needs to be as much focus on continued adoption as there is on the implementation of the tools. In this white paper, we will look at some of the key areas you can focus on to sustain adoption—post implementation—until usage of the new PPM tools becomes part of organizational culture.

To download the Word version of this white paper, see 7 Ways to Sustain Adoption of your PPM Solution, Post-Implementation: white paper.

To see more white papers, see "From the Trenches" white papers.

7 Ways to Sustain Adoption of your PPM Solution, Post-Implementation

Introduction

Have you ever been involved in a project where the new idea or innovation seemed to be the next best thing, gains strong support all across, gets executed, and then within a few months of being implemented, nobody uses it anymore? If you answered yes, you will also agree with me that in these projects, there was no dearth of change management efforts, training efforts, and so on. Why do people just stop using certain tools, which were thought be the greatest ideas at the time of implementation?

There could be many answers to the question above. It could be that the tool is outdated due to market conditions, or maybe the organizational strategy has changed. However, if you look carefully, more often than not, the real reason is that no efforts have been made to sustain the adoption that was achieved during the implementation of the project. It is not just enough to manage change during the project lifecycle; change must be managed beyond the project closure as well. This applies to any project, but more so in the context of the implementation of the PPM Solution, because PPM tools almost always cause a drastic shift in how projects are managed, tracked and reported across the organization.

In this white paper, we will look at some of the key areas you can focus on to sustain the adoption post-implementation, and not let go of the throttle until usage of the new PPM tool becomes part of organizational culture.

7 Ways to Sustain Adoption

Let’s assume your organization is going to implement the PPM solution (or upgrade to a newer version) in the near future. Let us also assume that there is full-force Training support and Change Management support available during the project life-cycle. In that context, here are the key areas that need real attention once the implementation is completed.

1) Establish 30-60-90 Day Goals   

Before you roll out the PPM solution, the first thing you need to do is to determine the 30-60-90 day goals for your implementation. You read that correctly. This needs to be done BEFORE the roll-out and not AFTER. Start with things that are simple to measure, like % of timesheets submitted on time or number of projects created etc., and measure them consistently and report on them. These ‘goals’ will help you as follows:

  • First of all, the goals and metrics will tell you how well the tool is being used. If the metrics look bad, then you can immediately jump to action and provide the support needed to increase the usage of the tool.

  • The goals will give you specific things to work with, instead of being generic about the success or failure of the project. They will help you show the value of the PPM solution to the management.

    And finally, this will help celebrate the small victories. While the PPM solution could have been implemented to bring about sweeping changes across the organization, it is important to gain quick wins and celebrate them, to keep the interest and the positivity around the solution.

And by the way, do not stop at 30-60-90 day goals. Make sure you establish some long term goals as well and monitor them.

2) Show Them the Value!   

Before the PPM Solution was implemented, it is almost guaranteed that a benefits analysis was done, which listed simpler project tracking and maintenance, enhanced collaboration, better visibility and control etc., However, the big elephant in the room that nobody talks about is that, all these are only possible, if all users of the PPM solution do the work necessary to generate and maintain the data. The consequence of this is that, the end user has no idea as to the value he/she brings to the organization just by submitting his timesheets on time, or how a Resource Manager can help by monitoring their resource allocations.

If you want real user adoption long term, the first focus should be to show each user the value they bring to the tool and the organization. Show them the reports and dashboard that are generated. Using the data they submit into the tool. Engage senior management to actually use those reports and dashboards and communicate to their groups, as to the value it is bringing them. Just like a plant only grows when the Sun shines on it, end users feel the importance of the tool, only when they know that organizational leaders have their focus on it.

3) Change your Learning Methodologies   

Think about this. As you are driving along in your car, listening to the radio, suddenly there comes a song that you really used to like as a child, but have not heard it in a long, long time. I can bet you on that, while you may not remember the exact lyrics of the song, you can pretty much hum along the tune of the song. Why do you think, it is so? Because of two reasons.:

  1. You heard that song many, many times.

  2. While the lyrics were ’information’, the tune had a ‘feeling’ attached to it. As human beings, we tend to remember feelings better than information alone.

So, how does that apply to our discussion here?

Traditional training for PPM solutions tend to focus on cramming a lot of data or information into lectures, training sessions, manuals and so on. However, there is no feeling or emotion attached to that information, so people do not retain it once these sessions are done. In fact, you have to assume that the users will not retain more than 20% of what they learn for the first time. So, how do we solve this? Just like we handled the song we liked.

  • Provide more avenues for obtaining training. All users do not understand things the same way. Some people are more tuned towards reading material, while others like to watch videos. So make sure people have more than one way to obtain information and training.

  • Allow users to attach a feeling to the information. This can include things like pulling users into small group lunch-and-learn sessions, allowing users to ask questions in a group setting, opening up discussion forums, and so on. I am pretty sure you still remember what a particular speaker said in response to one of your questions. The same applies to all your users as well.

  • Reward good ideas, questions and participation. The Project TechCenter and Forums are great examples of this, where all the correct answers are rewarded by the community themselves, thereby propelling more active sharing of knowledge and expertise.

4) Reassess and Reconfirm   

At one time, when I was working with a client on a PPM Implementation, we decided that all the reporting from the PPM Solution would be done using OLAP Cubes. If you are not familiar with the functionality of OLAP cubes, for the purposes of this story, understand that the data is only refreshed on a predefined schedule. In our case, we agreed it was going to be daily. However, once the solution was rolled out, we started getting complaints that the reports were incorrect, and were not showing the data as the users were entering it, and so on. As we delved deeper into the issue, we discovered that the executives were looking at the data almost hourly basis (expecting real-time data), and users were updating data on as-needed-basis. And since the OLAP data was a nightly refresh, the reports were obviously not updated. Therefore, after evaluating the options, we went back and rewrite those reports to directly pull data from the database, making them real time.

The moral of the story? What the project team thought, found, assumed, and designed during the project design phase may not always work in real world. So, be open to making changes. If you find that your initial solution implementation does not align with what users actually are doing in their daily job, do not be rigid and force the design upon the people. That is a sure-fire way to lose user interest.

5) Establish Governance   

Establishing a governance model to maintain your PPM solution, including changes etc., is, in my opinion, crucial. This topic has been covered in a great detail in the white paper Beat the Half-life (t ½): Governing Your PPM Solution, Post-Implementation. While the governance strategy helps maintain your PPM solution itself, it also shows the users that it is not required to like every single aspect of the implementation. It shows them that asking for a change is OK. This itself will bring an openness to the table, which helps users become the drivers. Actively talking about what can be improved about the solution is much better for adoption than just assuming everybody is aligned with what has been implemented.

6) Provide Fanatical Support   

These days it seems like you can get a free tool for any kind of work you want to do on your PC. Do not get me wrong—I absolutely love the free stuff. However, the one thing I dislike about free tools is the lack of support. If I run into issues, I am on my own to search and research a solution, try several solutions, and hope one works. Do not put the users of your PPM solution in this situation.

In my opinion, we all should be fanatical about supporting our users, no matter which application or process we are supporting. Always respond as fast as you can, even if it is not always with a solution. Once the user knows that somebody is paying attention to his/her issue, in most cases that itself is enough to put them at ease. And make sure you follow-up with a solution, or at least point them to the right direction. Always, remember that the PPM tool you are supporting is one of the many tools the user uses every day to get their job done, and the faster you can make their life easier by resolving their issue, the happier the users are.

Trust me; without strong support post-implementation, I can guarantee you that the PPM Implementation will fall through very quickly. Also, be smart about the support and resolution process. As you provide solutions to users, build a knowledge base, so that for future issues, you can just redirect users for a self-help solution.

7) Behavior That Is Rewarded Will Be Repeated!   

If you have kids, you will understand this right away: You reward a kid with a happy face when they do something, and they will keep doing it, until it starts getting on your nerves. Whatever behavior you reward will be repeated until you do something to change it. For every reluctant adopter you are trying to entice, there are at least 3 other early adopters who are actually trying to learn, understand, and use the tool.

Do not forget about these unsung supporters. They are the ones who actually embrace change, use the tool, and eventually lead others by helping them. Provide them with as much support as you can. Recognize and reward the things they are doing so that they continue doing them, and others can learn from them. Make them super users, and allow them to draft help articles. The bottom line is, encourage desirable behaviors so that they eventually override the undesirable ones.

Conclusion

The techniques listed above are not the only ones that can help in the end-user adoption, and the list can definitely be added to. The key point that needs to be understood is, it is not enough to just focus on user adoption and change management during the implementation, or a few months after the implementation. This is a standard, ongoing process that never ends, and it needs a constant focus and attention.

About the Author

Prasanna Adavi (PMP, MCTS, MCITP, MCT) is a Senior Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Consultant and Trainer specializing in the Microsoft Project, Microsoft Project Server, and Microsoft SharePoint platforms. His main focus is to build and enable business solutions to help organizations achieve the best return on their investments.

He also has extensive experience in leading projects end-to-end in a wide spectrum of domains and verticals, including IT, ERP (SAP), Manufacturing, Application Development, Automotive and Creative Services. He is a regular presenter at various Project Server, EPM and SharePoint events across the country, and a regular contributor to the SharePoint and EPM Community.

Prasanna is a regular blogger (http://www.prasannaadavi.com) and also runs a bi-weekly podcast (http://www.msprojectpodcast.com), mainly focusing on Microsoft Project and Project Server solutions. Prasanna is a Senior Consultant with EPMA (http://www.epmainc.com).

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