5 Best Practices to Proactively Minimize Project Risk

May 7, 2019 Molly Lauck

Have you been through a rough implementation? Are you getting ready to kick off your first IT project? Is the idea of implementation brand-new to you? 

Whether you’ve already been through an implementation or this is your first one, here are some high-level best practices to ensure everything is up and running smoothly. 

This checklist may seem a bit obvious, but having witnessed (and unfortunately experienced) enough poor implementations, I know that missing just ONE of these items can lead to a painful project for everyone involved. I know some of you are already nodding in agreement as you have flashbacks of the project that completely went sideways because a department was left out of the assessment phase... or your project manager forgot to mention that he would be out of the office the week before go live... or a key resource quit and has no backfill.  

The potential problems and costs are big, but to help reduce risks, use the following checklist to set your team up for success:

1. Identify your internal stakeholders and get them on board. 

  • Who will this project impact the most?
  • Who has the biggest stake in the game?
  • Who are your decision makers? (i.e. think policy, budget, roll-out strategy, technical support, senior leadership, etc.)

2. Create your project team by identifying the following resources: 

Project manager 

  • This person MUST be a good communicator and a team player. 

Project sponsor(s)

  • Your project sponsor needs to be different than your project manager. If your project manager isn’t delivering, then your vendor needs an escalation contact to keep the project on track. 

Subject matter expert(s)

  • Identify more than one person who knows the system inside and out or train someone new! 
  • One resource that owns all systems knowledge and admin rights is a HUGE risk for multiple reasons (e.g. vacation, attrition, auditing, I can keep going…).

Technical support 

  • Line up dedicated IT support to avoid future bandwidth issues for unexpected technical support needs.


3. Identify and list any potential timeline risks. 

  • Upcoming vacation time for anyone involved with the project
  • Resource capacity 
    • Do the project team’s resources have the bandwidth to take on this new project? 
    • If the answer is NO, you may need to reevaluate resources or add new team members (internally or even a third-party contractor if internal resources are not available).
  • Other internal projects and prioritization for YOUR project  
    • If needed, leverage your stakeholders to make your project a priority. 
  • Your industry’s busy season 

4. Audit your current solution and/or processes. 

Ask your team: 

  • What do they like?
  • What do they dislike?
  • What needs to change? What can be improved?
  • What are their goals?

List specific examples from the feedback you receive. 

Create a communication plan for your team. 

  • Schedule a mandatory internal status call (i.e. weekly or bi-weekly).
    • You may not have a ton to cover early on in the project, but the value of this call will grow as the project progresses. 
    • Keep your agenda simple - current status, issues, and timeline tracking

Schedule a monthly/quarterly governance call with stakeholders. 

  • Use this call to discuss any roadblocks and/or identified risks 
  • Spell out the timeline/target go live date 

Set expectations with the project team regarding: 

  • Email communication/response times (i.e. your project manager should be copied on ALL communication internally and to the vendor)
  • Meeting notes and project updates 
  • Issue tracking 
  • Who owns this living document? How do project resources add issues?

Define an escalation path. 

  • Who does the project team go to first if they aren’t getting what they need or have project concerns? 
  • Set expectations and enforce them!

5. Take advantage of recommended pre-implementation materials. 

This one is pretty easy - if your vendor tells you to do something (i.e. pre-project checklist or pre-project training) before the project kicks off, then do it! 
Your vendor is the expert - trust them and their guidance. Their prerequisites will help set your team up for success. 
Make sure the appropriate resources on the project team are involved and complete these necessary tasks. Get your team motivated! 

Hopefully this checklist will help you prevent some of these project risks becoming a reality on your next big project! Once you have your pre-implementation plan in progress, get excited and stay positive! You might want to think about starting a change enablement campaign to help build internal buzz. 

If you have questions about implementation delivery or change management or just want to learn more, talk to an implementation expert today.

About the Author

Molly Lauck

Molly Lauck is a Social Media Manager on the Appirio Marketing team. She has a long history of working in implementation delivery with global customers. She’s s constant learner who’s passionate about customer success, and the overall customer experience.

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