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Crush communication siloes during your ICM implementation

February 07, 2018

It’s the beginning of the year, and a much-needed ICM implementation may be in the works. However, without getting the right information to the right people at the right time, your rosy future state may come with conflict, confusion, and delays.

For SPM software implementations, with myriad stakeholder groups involved in the project’s success, it’s critical that each group has clear expectations. If all the dependent parties are not fully engaged and aware of what contributions are needed, it could cost the company valuable resources. Further, if the end users aren’t informed of when the new SPM platform will be live, or worse, aren’t trained to leverage its capabilities and the associated new business processes, user adoption will be low meaning the company won’t receive the full return on its investment. That’s the ultimate lose-lose scenario.

So how do you avoid a potentially disastrous SPM implementation? The answer is communication. Here are three steps to facilitate an effective communication plan before, during, and after your implementation.

Step 1: Assess communication needs

Evaluate the current structure for communication within your organization, the overall readiness of each stakeholder group for the new platform, and the future state processes and ownership of the new system. This will help you understand the communication needs and what level of change management is required.

While assessing the communication needs of a client in the global communications space, we uncovered a perception within the organization that the new platform would create a lot of organizational change in terms of business process and job role alignment. Additionally, we found that 50% of the 28 defined stakeholder groups who would be impacted by the new platform didn’t fully understand the benefits or how it could impact their roles.

Ultimately, the perception of the system causing drastic change was increased to the client’s stakeholders because half of them didn’t know what the new system would mean for them or their jobs. Before the assessment, the client didn’t recognize that many stakeholders were confused and alarmed at talks of changes without appropriate channels of communication. This made room for the client to make a game plan to share appropriate information to calm apprehensions and gain buy-in for the benefits they would receive from the tool. The client was able to react in a timely way to get stakeholders engaged with the project where appropriate, address potential resistance, and have the organization ready to adopt a new system.

You’ll also want to evaluate and understand your organization’s communications channels, ability to craft effective messaging, and preferred communication timing and cadence.

Step 2: Formalize a communication plan

Armed with an understanding of communication needs, formalize a communication plan that includes:

  • Timing and cadence of upstream and downstream communication activities
  • Communication channels
  • A communication lead for each stakeholder group who is responsible for ensuring that the group’s interests are represented, needs are met, and updates are shared
  • A program manager to track progress, ensure alignment of priorities, capture needs, concerns, and escalations from the communication leads
  • An executive steering committee to handle escalations and make critical milestone decisions

It’s worth noting that every organization will have different preferences regarding the cadence of communication activities, but in our experience with clients we’ve seen success with more frequent status updates. Greater frequency supports the ability to quickly identify anything that’s off track and course correct.

Step 3: Document and communicate

The best way to maintain alignment and eliminate surprises during an implementation is frequent documented communications. This should happen both upstream and downstream.

A benefit of documented communications is that it arms stakeholders with information to effectively and accurately update their teams on project progress, delays, and decisions that might directly impact the team. Not only does this allow the stakeholders to proactively manage expectations, but it also creates a clear feedback loop.

While almost all projects have challenges and/or delays, establishing tactics for regularly communicating project status and plans makes challenges and delays more manageable.

Questions to ask

Still not sure where to begin? Find the answers to these questions to determine what is needed to create an effective communication plan for your organization’s implementation success:

  1. Who are all the stakeholders, and what is their “stake?” Who will be impacted directly and indirectly by the new system and business processes?
  2. Who has the authority to make decisions and can intervene or advocate if things are not going according to plan?
  3. How often will people need updates, how often will risks and decisions need to be reviewed to stay on track with the project timeline? How should these types of information be shared?
  4. Who will be responsible for the providing updates, sharing issues, risks and items requiring decision? Who will be responsible for distributing this information?
  5. What is expected of the various stakeholders during the project? After the project is live?
  6. What types of training will people need to fulfill these expectations?

By answering these questions, an effective communication plan can be assembled and agreed upon before the project begins so that an on-time, on-budget implementation, and fully adopted system is within reach. Need guidance on developing an effective communication plan tailored for your organization? Reach out to us at os_info@opensymmetry.com.

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