As most IT and business executives already know, selling technology implementation can be a perilous odyssey of its own.
Moving users out of their comfort zones and into new systems and processes still remains a potential obstacle to the success of even the most proven solutions on the market.
For years now, Lancaster Bible College has been facing growing enrollments at its main campus in Pennsylvania, as well as its satellite locations in Florida, Maryland and Tennessee. As a faith-based institution, our goal is to recruit students who align with our mission and provide them with the program flexibility that they need to achieve their academic goals.
However, only a few years ago, we weren’t set up for this kind of growth. With aging infrastructure, we needed new solutions that could serve all locations through a single instance to gain greater visibility and agility across the institution. As a result, we would not only need to invest in a major transformation in our technology foundation but also ensure that our platforms enabled the institution’s unchanging mission and vision while creating a culture of change to transform and unite the institution’s administrators, faculty and staff.
Over the years as an IT executive at Lancaster Bible College and earlier in the corporate world, I have learned valuable lessons that have helped to ensure that new solutions have every chance of succeeding during and after implementation – and living up to their potential over the long term.
Lesson One: It begins and ends with leadership.
The executive leadership team of the institution must actively participate in promoting a culture of change when driving transformation through new technology and systems implementation. This includes clearly communicating the vision, benefits, project scope and status of the project, as well as allocating resources, incentivizing employees and funding the project.
Lesson Two: Process owners must drive the technology implementation.
Implementing new systems is ultimately a process improvement project, not a technology project. This is not only true with the initial technology implementation, but it’s also the case after going live. The change that’s associated with a new system can be overwhelming, so IT needs to communicate with other departments using more process-related language and less technical speak.
Lesson Three: Select a technology implementation partner that has proven experience.
After all of the vetting and reference calls, it always comes down to the third-party individuals who are assigned to your project. You need to decide early on that the third-party resources who are assigned to the project exude the level of expertise that meets or exceeds your expectations. If they don’t, escalate your concerns early on and make the necessary changes. Discuss this protocol with your vendor at the contract signing or soon after.
Lesson Four: Maximize the system’s best practices configuration.
Leverage best practices in the system that enable your institution’s mission and vision, as well as enable your faculty, staff and administration to have the necessary time to be that relational hero. Let team members know that they gain an incredible amount of flexibility through configuration versus customization.
Lesson Five: Plan for continuous change and improvement.
Start every project meeting with the recognition that this project is the catalyst for change and that “change” is very painful and intimidating for many. Start to create a culture where your institution will anticipate and embrace major change. Engage your internal marketing team to develop and create a program that will raise awareness, build confidence and generate excitement.
Lesson Six: Develop a diverse project team that’s comprised of the best from each department.
Get a commitment from senior leadership to reserve the best department members for the duration of the technology implementation project. Provide temporary hires or student workers to keep the legacy system operational during the technology implementation. At the onset of the project, have senior leadership clearly communicate to all departments a moratorium on any other change requests that are associated with the legacy system and processes.
Lesson Seven: Knowledge transfer is essential.
Part of your training plan for your departmental leads on the project team needs to include the transfer of knowledge from your consultants. Include one of your sharpest help desk resources on the project team and have him or her sit in on blueprint/discovery sessions and be actively involved in the User Acceptance Test. This will pay dividends at Go Live.
Lesson Eight: The integrity of the master data is critical.
Be aware that ensuring the integrity of the master data is a major project in itself. The best place to scrub the data is in your legacy system before you migrate it. Assign subject matter experts who understand the nuances and anomalies of the data in your legacy system. Confidence in the integrity of your data is a key factor in successful transformations.
Lesson Nine: Provide user training for the transaction and the “process.”
Develop an internal training program that’s focused not only on the transaction level but also on the process level. Develop online training scenarios using samples of master data that is meaningful and familiar to your users. Prior to Go Live, leverage your online education and marketing department to create a series of basic-training videos with your screens, data and processes, and make them available on your YouTube Channel.
Lesson 10: Set clear expectations.
Be intentional at the onset of the project to create a culture of positive change. When necessary, caution team members who cling to legacy processes and consult individually with those who are determined not to accept change.
Most importantly, remember that these steps are only the beginning. When things have stabilized, be mindful that if you want to maximize the payoff, you need to keep the momentum going through communication, visibility and oversight to exploit the next wave of benefits and optimizations.
Vincent Johnson is the Vice President of Information Systems at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa. Vinnie has over 30 years of experience as a technology leader in IT, and his latest enterprise project was implementing Campus Management’s CampusNexus Student and CRM solutions at Lancaster Bible College.