System Planning – Defining Success

What defines a “successful implementation” of a system?

Is it that the system or app is “on” or “live”?

Or perhaps it’s because we have users with licenses who sign in and “use” the system on some form of regular basis?

Maybe it’s because we can derive data from that system or tool/application?

I suppose it depends on the initiative being rolled out, but the common point is that without a defined statement (or statements) of what success is, it’s hard to know when we’ve arrived.

Bare with me here…

I coach children’s hockey. At the beginning of each season I make it very clear that while it may be fun to win, I don’t judge our success on how many goals we score or wins we get. I define it based on the level of effort put forth by each member of the team. The other coaches and I explain that we measure this by looking for sweaty brows following a game or practice. We measure it by listening for huffing and puffing when kids finish a shift or a set of drills. We measure it by the rosey cheeks we see in the dressing room following their time on the ice.

These are measurable outcomes. We might lose a game by multiple goals, but if everyone in that room is sweating, rosey cheeked and catching their breath, it’s a sign they gave it their all, and that’s what we ask for. There are other measures of success, of course, but these are foundational aspects of the game that I think are present throughout.

So let’s turn back to a systems roll-out and think about this same logic.

If we’re rolling out a new system, what do we need to accomplish to meet the goal? Better yet, what IS the goal in the first place?

The point is to think about this when embarking on this journey. I often find it difficult to think of these measurable outcomes when on the spot, so a trick I learned a while back was to brainstorm a little and then put the list a way and come back to it later. Maybe hours, days, or even a week. Occupy brain space with other projects and then revisit the list and add to it. I find as I reflect on what I wrote the last time I’m inspired to make some changes to that initial list and add some new items.

I also talk to others to get their input in what they would define success to be. As different departments or users at what point they will define the roll-out to be successful.

The definition of success should be laid out early in the process as it helps us frame the tasks that need to be undertaken to realize those outcomes. Those tasks, in turn, become the work necessary to pull the project together.

For example, in the case of a CRM system designed to manage sales, one of the goals might be that all opportunities are managed through the system. If we use a workback plan around this, it might look something like this:

Goal: All opportunities are managed (entered, won/lost) through the system.

To accomplish this, we need to do a number of things such as (but not limited to…this is just an example after all):

  • Develop a standard operating procedure(s) for the company on how opportunities are entered into the system
    • Manual (someone enters them as they arise)
    • Automatic (based on other events/actions in the CRM system or via API connection to another system)
  • Identify the fields necessary for the company to manage an opportunity
  • Create the fields and place on the opportunity form
  • Create relevant workflows / business rules / script on the form to support staff in management of the opportunity over time
  • Develop training resources for our staff team and facilitate as necessary
    • This includes the development of a training recurrence schedule – repeated tidbits of supportive material and training for staff (because training never ends even if we think it ought to)
  • …the list could go on

Within this single desired outcome, we now have a list of tangible actions that need to be completed to move the needle toward our company having “all opportunities managed through the system”.

And this is just one of the outcomes we might define. There could be numerous outcomes we hope to achieve, each with its own set of tasks necessary to get there.

I find this approach really useful as it helps break down what can seem like an absolutely enormous project into smaller component parts that we can start to delegate throughout our team and ultimately help us move toward “success”.

Photo by Photo by Vek Labs on Unsplash

I don’t know that there is a single definition of success that applies to all companies when it comes to rolling out systems or organizational processes. The point of this post was to frame the importance of defining what success is as a means to measuring progress and achieving ‘success’ for the project in question.

I believe this is critical because, as I noted earlier, if we don’t define what success looks like, how do we know we’ve reached it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts? How do you define and measure success of your projects? What is one tip you’d share with someone asking this question?

We’re all learning. Why not learn together?

Cover Image: Photo by N. on Unsplash

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