Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to conduct a Project Kick-off Meeting

By: Erwin L. Sison

The Project Kick-off meeting is probably one of the most important meetings the project team will have to conduct during the course of the whole project, if not the most important. It is the meeting when you give the client the best impression you could afford. The most appropriate time to give them an overview of how the project will be ran. The moment when you let the customer know that you and your team is up for the challenge. In other words this is the moment when you lay your cards on the table.

In my years of working for an ERP solution partner, believe me sometimes this could dictate the success rate of the project.

Here are a few tips on how to make it a successful and meaningful Project Kick-off Meeting.

  1. Plan and Prepare. Yes, this should always be on the very top of your list every time you do something, in this case Kick-off meeting, plan. This is a no-brainer if I may say.
  2. Introduce your team . The customer will have to know who are the people they will be working with. From the Project Manager to the Project Lead to the Consultants (Functional and Technical) and the PMO Officer (Project Management Office). It is always a good idea to bring the whole team.
  3. Know their team. Since you have already introduced your team, then it is only fair for you to know whom are you going to deal with. The Project Manager for their side, the members of the steering committee and all the key users. Be sure to get their names, contact numbers, email addresses and their role in the company. Do not leave without this important information.
  4. Discuss Project Schedule. This is the backbone of the whole exercise. Discuss what happens after the Kick-off meeting and what are the next activity after that and so on and so forth. Now, I have witnessed some Project Managers who doesn't want to discuss the schedule, BIG mistake! Without the Project Schedule the whole exercise is a failure. It is the right of the customer to at least have an idea on how long the implementation will take so they could plan their schedule. Remember this is an essential part of this activity.
  5. Show Project Milestones. While discussing the Project Schedule, highlight the Project Milestones. This will make them visualize the project in significant phases and will give them a good idea on the status of the project during the course of the implementation.  If in case you need to mention your Billing Milestones please do so.
  6. Explain Terminologies and Abbreviations.  During the discussion on the Project Schedule and Project Milestones you will surely touch abbreviations and terms such as UAT, Parallel Run, Internal Testing, Uploading etc. Although these might be a routine to you it might be a totally new experience for some of them. Be sensitive to your audience by explaining briefly the purpose of the activity and it's significance to the project.
  7. Present your Project Management Tools. These tools are equally important to the project. There are tons and tons of tools out there, from issue tracker, file repository, schedule monitoring, correspondence keeper and progress reporting. I could name a few in my future blogs and probably would recommend some. If you plan to use a Project Management tool that the customers need to use then this is the exact time to show and discuss it with them and highlight its advantages so they could understand its necessity.
  8. Emphasize Teamwork. The most important word in the whole project, stress clearly to them that your team and theirs is actually just one team and both of you needs to work together to achieve success of the project. In doing so and if they buy your idea, you can achieve cooperation between two sides.
You may of course add a few more agenda to the activity if you think it is necessary, always keep in mind that a wisely planned and well-conducted Project Kick-off meeting is the best way to launch a project. Just like they always say, first impression lasts.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to deal with uncooperative users

By: Erwin L. Sison

After years of implementing ERP projects I have dealt with an array of different users. The most challenging to handle are those who are uncooperative. Obviously.
Based on experience these types of users are usually those who have been in the company for a considerable number of years and very much comfortable with their current workflow.

Here are 8 tips on how to handle them effectively:

1. Give Assurance. Make them feel assured with the new system. Always keep in mind that you are in some ways taking away their comfort zone, so a little assurance that your system is better that their current one could go a long way.
2. Plan and Prepare. Make sure you got all sides covered as much as possible before you meet with them. Do your homework so you could address their concerns effectively. Plan all your activities specially those ones, which involves these users and let them know in advance, this way they could also plan their schedule and both sides will be on the same page. Uncooperative users normally tries to look for an excuse to be uncooperative don’t give them this opening.
3. Be Confident. The users would be assured if you show confidence and to be confident you have to have everything prepared. Your aura of confidence will rub onto them, if they saw you as a tentative and unsure kind of person, they will feel the same way towards the project. On the other hand, your confidence gives them assurance that they are in good hands and everything will be all right.
4. Never Lie. There is a fine line between convincing the users and lying. Never promise something that cannot be done just for the sake of getting their approval. Be truthful, sometimes all it takes is a single lie and everything that you worked so hard for could go down the drain. If it cannot be done just say so, if you have a workaround then make a proposal.
5. Own your Mistake. In a huge implementation it is very difficult not to make mistakes. The important thing is how you accept and own yours and be able to smartly pick-up the pieces from there. The last thing you need in a project with unhelpful users is for them to discover a mistake you tried so hard to conceal.
6. Communicate well. Dealing with other people always, always boils down to an effective communication skill. Listen intently and make sure you understand their apprehensions then speak in a mildly toned voice. They say that 10% of conflicts are due to difference of opinion and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice. Always bear in mind that conflict in a project will not benefit anybody.
7. Ask for their opinion. Everybody wants to be heard period. In a situation where what you will decide on directly impacts another persons working habit, that person deserve to be heard; their opinion matters. In asking for their opinion you are shooting two birds with one stone; gathering information and making disobliging users oblige.
8. Project an approachable image. Because a project implementation is a two-way street, there should be minimal or no room for uneasiness. You should let them know and feel that they can approach you and ask question anytime. Projecting an approachable image will encourage all types of users to liaise with you effectively.

Of course there are more things that you could do to deal with uncooperative users and make the project implementation become successful but most of them revolves around those I have listed above.