Reason 2: Engagement
The second major cause of PSA implementations failing is insufficient engagement.
A PSA system changes people’s lives, hopefully for the better. Irrespective, it will certainly change your employees’ working practices and to succeed, they all need to be engaged, to varying degrees.
This is a serious commitment, one to be entered into with a clear vision of the end-point in mind.
So, while it’s easy to see that engagement is critical, we’d like to suggest 5 key areas where engagement makes the difference between success and failure:
- Get and maintain employee buy-in: so while of course this is always essential, any lack of employee buy-in really comes to the fore where the size of the company is between 10 and (say) 30. Below 10, generally this is an owner-managed business and what the owner says goes, above 30 the company is likely to have established functions with clear(ish) segregation of duties and that buy-in should have been covered off in a well-run selection process (if you’re in that size range and that didn’t happen, beware there are rocks ahead). In between these two we have challenging companies which are struggling to get to the size where segregation is essential and where conflicts are not easily resolved. Often in businesses of this size, differing pressures and jockeying can drive opposition (to the choice) that will stagnate adoption and lead to failure. If you’re in this bracket, ensure the whole management team sits together on the demos and engages in the trial. The shame is that it is these companies that most need a good PSA to help underpin further growth. So agree the objectives, the overall scope and any functional red-lines (but don’t indulge a niche feature list); be clear what success looks like and get everyone to agree before talking to your first vendor.
- Clarify responsibilities: someone must be in charge of the project to implement the new platform. Easy to say, but once again, in our difficult size range, often the culture of these growing business does not even support “in charge” as a concept. So decisions being made by the person in the lead (decisions that will impact other people’s jobs) must be communicated discussed and nurtured, not imposed. Just one person, team or area refusing to use the platform (or wishing to use it in a totally different way) can wreck the whole venture - communicate decisions and deal with outliers early.
- Avoid distractions: small businesses do not run with any slack, they don’t have people on the bench, each new hire is a key decision that takes guts to make. So you will be using people to implement that also have day jobs and are already busy (remember you’re probably doing this because of growth plans). So, this rule is just a problem, getting enough time to make it work. The first step in countering a problem is to recognise it exists, it does and it will impact you. Run this like any other project, with time allowances, updates, communication (daily stand-ups are good). You need to keep the pressure on yourself and the whole team to just make this happen, or it won’t. And don’t get distracted (easy for me to say). I don’t know what the cost of a failed implementation is, but let’s say, fees plus staff time, maybe its $10,000 – at least. So you get distracted and that’s like getting 10k in bank notes, taking them to the car park and burning it - you wouldn’t do that so don’t do it. This one is tough, but the benefits are real: stay focused and stick to the plan.
- Make decisions at the time: these projects need a pile of decisions, many of which you will not have thought of. When they arise, don’t delay, act. Almost everything can be altered later, pausing progress to consider a decision will destroy momentum and open the project to distractions. All that focus will be lost and the implementation will falter and may fail. It will certainly increase your budget. So be unusually decisive, and get to the end so you can start using the platform as early as possible.
- Lead from the front: remember the key beneficiaries of a right-sized, correctly configured, smoothly running and accurately implemented PSA tool should be the management team. It will let you scale the business fast with reduced cost drag, provide unparalleled visibility around client, contract and employee performance and ensure that you stay on top of all the myriad details of running a business. Your employees’ jobs should improve as well, but you get the real benefits. So, while this goes on, stay on top of it, attend training and daily stand-ups, engage the vendor for advice, get involved in the configuration, for once don’t over-delegate, be decisive and a passionate champion for change.
Follow these five engagement rules and your business will transform. Turn your back on the project and you’ll be back to burning banknotes in the car park…