by Simon Newbon
    Project Services Director


29th April 2020 | 7 min read

Project success during crisis

Projects such as business system implementations, upgrades and improvements to add critical functionality may have slipped down the priority list at the start of the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simon Newbon, Project Services Director at Datel takes a look at why now might just be the best time to accelerate your technology projects, how to not lose sight of the benefits your project will bring and how to maximise your project success in the current working environment.

COVID-19 has brought with it a lot of uncertainty for businesses and when this happens, projects can be one of the first things to suffer as the business leaders focus on urgent requirements and responding to change.  As we head further into the period of lockdown, businesses have managed to mobilise whole or core teams to continue working from home and, for many, furlough arrangements have been put in place.  Depending on the way your business has had to respond to the lockdown period, you’ll be dealing with different challenges in terms of keeping your project going.  

Whatever your business is currently experiencing, coming back to the reasons why you embarked on a technology project such as ERP implementation, upgrade or adding functions is the first step to getting your project back on track.  Take a look at the business success measures and return on investment (ROI) calculations you applied to the project when you selected to go ahead.  What elements are relevant today, what are critical to the future and which ones are required for compliance, quality or looking after your customers?  The need to have remote access to your systems, connectivity to data or insight to aid better decision making may be even more critical than they were before. 

Continuing through COVID-19

Once you have realised that the ROI measures are still relevant, it is important to get a handle on what the current focus point for your business system projects is? For some it will be business critical work that has been brought forward, for others it is an opportunity to capitalise on the ‘new-normal’ we are currently experiencing.  Assemble your project team and discuss what benefits continuing your project right now will bring your business, particularly if teams are quieter than they were before. Here are a few benefits you should consider:

  • Maximise on a quieter time

If you are seeing a dip in your normal trading, the project team within your business should have more time to focus on making improvements now that can be utilised when business picks back up.  Making the most of a reduction in order volume, invoicing or usual daily tasks means value can be realised with the team you have in operation.

  • Create super users

With a furloughed workforce and core teams keeping things operating, this gives you an opportunity to build change, improve processes and get new systems or versions in place with a smaller set of super-users. They can iron out any issues, get themselves up to speed with new ways of working and then when the furloughed employees return you have an army of advocates that will help to navigate the changes your technology is set to make.

  • Free up time later in the year

Once lockdown is over and businesses gear back up to something like normal, trading will head towards the levels reached before.  Utilising the time now for project delivery means that your systems and processes are in place and your time is available to maximise on opportunities in a more efficient and productive way.

Ensuring project success

With your project back in focus, as a project manager, sponsor or the individual driving for the change that your technology project will deliver, you will be used to having to consider, assess and monitor risks throughout the lifespan of your project.  COVID-19 is having a bigger impact on businesses than could ever have been imagined and means projects will be more difficult to manage than ever before. Here is some practical advice for maximising the success of your project:

1. Focus on the project success measures

Maintaining the focus on what success measures you had defined for the technology project will ensure that it will deliver value and return on investment in the long run. Don’t be distracted by short term gains that will become redundant at a later date.  Stay true to your business measures of success and remind others what these are regularly.

2. Adjust your approach

Consider the approach you would have taken previously and what changes need to be made to ensure success and less distractions.

  • Shorter workshop bursts may be more appropriate than long all-day workshops to maximise on availability of people
  • Training via recorded videos could ensure your furloughed teams have a reference point when back in work
  • A phased rollout could put less pressure on your IT systems

Work with your technology provider who will have ways they have worked with other customers and ideas for you to consider.

3. Align your project plan

Once you have adjusted your approach to the project, you need to ensure your project plan is aligned. Nice-to-haves may need stripping out or delaying so you can focus on the essentials. Think about the availability of people and move things forward or back accordingly and consider phasing the implementation so that benefits that can be realised now can be brought forward.

4. Re-energise and empower your change management network

Ensuring that your project sponsor, managers, change agents and wider teams are informed and onboard is essential.  Increase the level of communication around the project, re-look at training plans, and ensure that the actions required to ensure the change happens are acknowledge and pushed forward by your change management network. And be human - treat people well at a time of high pressure including your own teams, customers and suppliers.  

5. Make the most of virtual project meetings

If you have the ability to bring your project team online, make sure that you maximise on the time you have.  Set a purpose for the meeting, facilitate the meeting with that purpose in mind and encourage the participants to turn their videos on to improve call engagement and focus.

6. Utilise your technology provider

The project manager, project sponsor and your account manager within your business technology provider will have experience of completing successful projects during this time. Call on their knowledge and expertise, ask for advise on how to work through the project and ensure they are fully informed on what you are trying to achieve and what challenges you will be facing.

Using these six action points through your project will ensure you maximise on the current time, and deliver real value for your business now and once your business is operating in a more normal environment.

For more help and support with starting, re-energising or finishing your business system projects, get in touch with your Datel project manager, project sponsor or account manager. We are here to help you stay on track and maximise on your business technology now and into the future.


About Simon

Simon Newbon is an APM qualified project manager and has built the project delivery teams with that knowledge and expertise at their core.  He is passionate about quality in delivery, implementing business change in the correct way and building the right relationships to deliver project success.  His teams include APM qualified project managers, Sage accredited applications consultants and a technical development team who are experts in system integration.