Breaking news from Withum’s Advisory Management Consulting team where ERP and CRM Software Implementations and Software Evaluation projects continue with some TWISTS.
The first twist for some, if not many, is performing work at many disbursed physical locations, like homes, while staying collaborative and connected. Withum’s Digital Solutions team has published information relating to working in a digital environment and gave advice and best practices on technology and tools to use.
Almost any software-related project has a detailed work plan and must remain accessible to the entire team as the tasks haven’t changed. What has changed is the ability to walk down the hall to interact with your coworkers. Many people rely heavily on these interactions to gather the necessary information to use in their day-to-day jobs (i.e., reports, vendor bills, error resolution, etc.) where visual observation is essential. The ability to physically read the room, people’s body language, and other non-verbal signs, which we have learned over time that weighs into our decision-making process, is limited. The actual impact of social distancing on the workplace and projects can be debated, but what matters now is how we compensate for the interaction loss and move forward with the project’s work plan activities.
Another twist that will directly impact many of your resources on the project is their home life. Complications such as school and daycare closures, access to amenities, meals or a host of other challenges are distracting.
Project Management Office (PMO) will have to manage these inefficiencies that come from not working in your typical work environment. Not if, but when, the team recasts the work plan, they will need to factor in extra time and evaluate where the critical path dates will fall out. The recast of the work plan is strictly for the PMO to debate as part of the risk management exercise; however, it impacts everyone involved in the project and may need collaboration from the extended team to finalize.
Here is what Withum is doing right now on a particular ERP project where the client’s teams are located in New York, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong:
- Ensure all team members have access to collaboration tools (i.e., Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Teams, and others) and file-sharing tools (i.e., SharePoint, OneDrive, Client’s VPN access to Shared Folders). The whiteboard feature inside of Microsoft Teams is helpful for visualization. The personal interaction dynamic must change whereby the PMO has to ensure all parties are engaging, knowing the team’s personalities and what to expect is vital. Silence does not mean acceptance. Seek confirmation from all parties (refer to R.A.C.I. discussion below).
- We have a functional PMO where we are in constant contact with the client and use the workplan to drive the day’s and week’s activities. Notice the time dimension is not more than a week, as we intend to keep everyone’s focus on a short task list in a short duration. Why? There will inherently be more distractions working in our new “normal” environments, as we ask our people to integrate work activities with personal commitments. These are unavoidable complications.
- Withum then has an end of day stand up call where we review the status. What did we expect to complete? Were any new risks and issues encountered which will change the planned weekly activities?
- Since our development team resides in Australia, we avail ourselves of the time change so that our N.Y. time zone teams begin their day with the work product inputs from our Australian development team. The Australian team leads our evening stand up call with our project manager. Our detail workplan is supported by a resource capacity load schedule to manage realistic expectations of everyone. Work will get done outside of normal working hours, sometimes in a shift as we integrate work with personal life.
- This operating style is not foreign to Withum but can be to our clients, so we deploy another mechanism, which is to over-communicate and stay brief as people will not read page-long emails. If your communication is a page long, connect with the PMO and call a sidebar.
- Project governance is always necessary, but given our circumstances, governance must go on steroids where agendas, instructions, and preparation will require more detail and emphasis as to what are the expected outcomes and consistent monitoring of the due dates.
- Withum employs a communication strategy called R.A.C.I. Team members in any work session, testing event, data collection, form creation, report development, etc. need to know who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who must be Consulted and who must be kept Informed.
It is vitally important to align yourself with experienced professionals who can guide you through this time until everyone is back together. We can try to convey everything we know, but unless you have lived this situation, your particular facts and circumstances might not get addressed with our recommendations. Withum is just a phone call away to lend additional insight. Reach out to us today.
Business and Management Consulting