One of the first steps in software implementation is establishing your implementation team (aka the Core Team). So what is the Core Team, and what do they do? The Core Implementation team works as a unit to define the implementation project and requirements; configure and customize the software solution; and learns, as well as trains others, how to use the software system. This leadership team will be responsible for a comprehensive understanding of the software and how to use it. They will also make sure this information is effectively taught to all members of the organization.
Let’s discuss the number of Core Team members you should have, how to select the right core team, specific member responsibilities and roles, determining meeting schedules and availability, and how to build on what the Team is able to accomplish after implementation is complete, long after you are live in the new software system.
Your Core Team should consist of 3-5 individuals, depending on the number of staff using your software. This does not mean you won’t rely on the hard work and contributions of additional staff members. But a smaller team does mean you will likely encounter fewer obstacles while making key implementation decisions and learning the software system. The Core Team can easily solicit staff feedback or outsource various administrative tasks without having to add additional Team members.
For companies with a larger user base, we recommend organizing sub-groups based on organizational leadership such as “Department Supervisors” or “Team Leads”. Or, you may have groups that are organized by software user group or department (“Super Users” or “Subject Matter Experts”). These groups will assist the Core Team by providing feedback on current workflows. They should be among the first users to be trained so they can provide additional, critical feedback and depth to your training plan (training the trainers).
Selecting Team Members
So who should be part of this elite unit of software heroes? Core Team membership is not a lifetime achievement award, popularity contest or referendum on office politics. You need team members with positive attitudes who are outcome oriented. Members of the Core Team also need to work good with others.
Of course, it’s always great to have team members who are generally good with new technology and software in general, or have successful implementation experience. They need to be advocates for software change. It’s also beneficial to have team members with solid administrative skills – someone who takes good notes, organizes meetings, and is generally skilled at orchestrating order out of chaos. But, keep in mind that you can invite someone with these skills to help participate in your meetings without actually giving them a true “vote” or “voice” per se with the Core Team.
Make sure to select members representing multiple departments or user groups. If you have accountants, one of them will certainly be on the Team. You will also need to have a project/traffic manager – someone who represents the agency’s internal resources and interests. Creative staff tend to be more vocal with their disdain of software systems, but don’t let them fool you! Anyone who can navigate the Adobe Creative Cloud can handle your basic project management system. Besides, creatives are your ultimate end users and doers for the agency – their input into your processes should be represented in a REAL way.
Next, I would select an individual who is more client-facing (account managers or new business managers), as they are typically the origin of the information that ultimately triggers use of your system.
Throughout this selection process it’s important to keep in mind you may not always have a choice when it comes to particular individuals – sometimes a specific staff member’s authority and/or responsibilities may require they become a member of the team, even if they don’t possess desired qualities.
Finally, make sure you have an owner/executive sponsoring the Core Team. They do not have to be on your Core Team, but we require their involvement on all implementation projects (more on this in the next section).
Team Member Roles and Responsibilities
There are a number of key roles that must be filled within your Core Team. Keep in mind that multiple roles may be held by one person. Also, a role may be filled by someone who is not on the Core Team (scribe, champion, owner, etc.). They can participate in implementation activities without being involved in the major decisions that drive this implementation project.
Administrator – This person owns the implementation project and they own Workamajig (is this you?). They will preside over the Core Team. They may or may not actively use or participate in all Workamajig apps deployed during the implementation. However, they should be comfortable using all aspects of the system.
Core Admin Backup – The administrator needs a backup – remember the rule of redundancy: two is one; one is none. This person essentially has to know and understand Workamajig as well as the administrator. They fill in for the administrator whenever needed and can help facilitate any of their responsibilities accordingly.
In theory, both the administrator and their backup will have access to all parts of the system, including sensitive, financial data. This typically means these members will be accountants – but this is not a requirement. My favorite admin/backup dynamic duo pairs the accountant with the project manager.
Owner/Executive – This person may or may not be a part of the Core Team. This person signs off on and enforces the decisions made by the Core Team. They also hold the Core Team and its members accountable for the implementation. Implementation failure is almost impossible when you have multiple, key staff (such as the owner and administrator) accountable for the same objective. Workamapro, Inc. requires all projects have an owner or executive (for marcoms).
Project Champion – Every internal project will require a leader who can insure successful execution. This person must have some form of senior leadership (owner or executive) over the company and must be able to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably occur throughout the project. A good project champion supports the project and can sell its virtues to the owner of the company in order to obtain their full commitment. They are also able to help broker solutions to difficult decisions that require compromise across multiple departments and among seniority staff.
Scribe – Someone has to be in charge of documenting key communications and decisions that occur throughout your meetings and amongst your team. They can also help to identify and clarify the organization’s fluid goals for the project.
Documentation Specialist – This person is responsible for documenting your processes, training milestones, and training materials. Training materials can be custom-made or adapted from the Workamajig Help Guide. To help develop better documentation, set up website wiki’s or intranet sites, or utilize a solid screen capture/recording program such as SnagIt or Camtasia. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a thousand pictures. My friend John Burdett, owner of Fast Slow Motion, forces his staff to shoot their Salesforce training videos in one take. That way you never have to worry about shooting the perfect video – it’s guaranteed to be imperfect. Try it!
Meeting Organizer – anyone on the Core Team can organize meetings but particular care should be taken in larger organizations where the complexity of implementation objectives meets the chaos of client business. You are going to have a lot of meetings and someone has to assist in determining availability as well as scheduling times and resources to facilitate the meetings.
Team Meetings and Availability
The Core Team should meet to create an initial implementation schedule and set the frequency of Core Team meetings. Consideration should also be made for the availability of each team member so that the team can plan accordingly. For individual members, decide what percentage of their day can be committed to the project. Additionally, consider their weekly schedule – specifically which days they can commit and how many uninterrupted hours they can dedicate to the project during those particular days.
Consideration must be made for daily, weekly and monthly responsibilities. For example, we may say that an individual can devote 2 hours per week to this project. However, it will become more important to understand the actual impact and breakdown of this time – is that .25 hours per day, but no time on Mondays? Or is it .5 hours on Mondays and Thursdays, with a full hour on Wednesdays? The key is making sure you have a full accounting of all fixed time obligations that can be assigned to individuals and the team, and all ad hoc time that the group or individuals can utilize, working at their own pace.
Finally, be sure to consider all known personal time off for team members that will occur and therefore disrupt or require an update of your implementation schedule.
Whatever time constraints are deemed appropriate should be signed off on by the executive/owner contact to signal the importance of the project to both the team members and the rest of the organization. These constraints must be honored across the company so that the implementation project isn’t continually rescheduled (or ultimately never happens).
What Next? Keep the Team Together
The Core Team doesn’t split up after you are live in Workamajig. They should continually monitor your staff to ensure they are using the system as intended. You have worked on an implementation plan to go live in the system. That plan does not live in a vacuum. In fact, it becomes outdated the moment you are live in Workamajig, because, as a group, you are now better informed about your organization’s needs and how to use the software.
Your staff should have a channel to communicate support needs. Most importantly, you must listen to each other’s ideas for improving the way you work. Workamajig will help reveal your inner pain points, redundancies, and inefficiencies.
The Team should continue to meet on a regular basis (at least monthly). Each team member should be prepared to discuss what they think is working well with the system and what they feel can be improved. Together the group can form a consensus about which of these items should be flagged as a future operational enhancement, and which items should be updated immediately. Then, the team can work together to implement the needed changes, and update operational plans accordingly. By working in this manner, you create a habit of continuous process improvement. Always look for a better way to meet an objective.
Ultimately, it is the executive/owner’s job to ensure the Team keeps moving toward the goal. Enforcing consequences when priorities get off track is part of that responsibility.
Implementing new software is not a suggestion. It is a final destination – an agreed upon change that IS happening. It’s part of a job description – the job’s functions, duties, company policy, etc. Certainly difficult things should be communicated so that the right behaviors can be channeled to the appropriate parties, but if a particular process does not gel with the group, it doesn’t mean it can be ignored or overlooked. Never stop pushing for the end result. Your Core Team will help you get there!