When it comes to implementing new technology the timeline can change drastically depending on the function of the technology. A new video screen in a meeting space can take as little as a few hours to implement. A new CRM software may take weeks or several months. Switching to a new UCC platform organization-wide may take years from start to finish.
As a technology manager you’ll often need to strategize over the long term in order to successfully implement a new technology. In education environments, for example, the IT and AV departments often forecast years ahead based on budget and goals. For corporate clients that forecast may depend on many factors – you may go department by department, office by office, or one employee at a time when rolling out new technology.
When building a technology implementation business strategy it’s important to communicate a realistic timeframe to stakeholders in the organization. In order to communicate that timeframe, you need to understand that timeframe. That involves communication with the technology provider, the technology installers, your own IT team, and so on.
It is also important to know potential pivot points, or potential check-in points. If you have a three-year timeframe, you can’t simply set it and forget it and expect that three years later everything will be fine. Mistakes can get made. Projections can be incorrect. Outside variables such as COVID-19 can come into play delaying the implementation. It’s a good idea to break the timeline into phases, focus on one phase at a time, and as things progress tweak the following phases to reflect that.
At the onset of the technology implementation, your business strategy should look like a timeline. One long plan, with specific phases of the plan built in. That all starts with gathering the right information.
Gathering information is by far the most important part of setting up a long-term technology implementation strategy. The aim here is to understand the implementation internally and externally, on multiple levels.
Your first discussion should be with the manufacturer of the technology. If you are utilizing an integrator to help with the installation, the integrator should be brought into this conversation as well. You should be asking about specific installation times for the technology. Inquire about the strategy on the integrator’s part. At this point you’ll likely have a bid from the integrator – study it and make sure to note any questions you might have. You want to know what the delay will be if something goes wrong.
Next you’ll want to talk to your IT department. You’ll want to clearly lay out each employee’s role in the installation. Make sure they ask questions if they are confused about anything. Make sure they voice concerns if they have any. Your IT department will be the front line internally to installing technology, so you want that group as tight as possible on roles and responsibilities.
Finally, you’ll want to talk to department heads whose departments will be affected by the rollout. If there is going to be any down time as a result of the implementation department heads have to know so they can plan for that. The marketing department may have their busiest week the same week you plan to switch them over to a new system – that’s not going to go over well if you inform them last minute.
Make a note of any problems that may arise, who will be in charge of solving those problems, and how that will affect the installation. You want everything as clear as possible up front so that you don’t waste time assigning blame or responsibility if and when something goes awry.
Creating a Timeline
Once you’ve learned everything you need to know internally and externally it’s time to create a timeline. It’s often helpful here to utilize project management software to help keep track of the timeline as well as everyone’s responsibility for that timeline.
The timeline will really be several timelines. As mentioned, you’ll likely want to take a phased approach, where there are multiple phases of the project over the full timeline. Within each phase there will be specific actions and responsibilities doled out.
Make sure that every internal stakeholder has a copy of the timeline so they know when the implementation will affect them. Just because the sales manager said they’ll be good to switch over two years from now doesn’t mean they’ll remember. Create reminders a year, six months, three months, one month, and a week ahead of time so they have ample time to prepare.
Before you finalize, run the timeline by everyone one last time to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Once the project kicks off there will inevitably be problems that may well lead to delays. You need to be prepared to pivot. This is where the phased approach comes in handy – you can pivot one phase and still get back on track down the line, without having to worry about the entire timeline.
Keep all of this in mind and your long-term business strategies will go off without too many hitches (though Murphy’s Law does always apply).