Illustration by Amy Putnam

Three management factors play a key role in technology implementation success: Project, Change and Vendor Management.

Most organizations focus on project management (PM)—the discipline of planning, executing, and completing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet business objectives. Many have a Program/Project Management Office (PMO) to ensure project governance, with leadership and oversight of funds and resources, risk management and more.

Good PM requires Business Requirements Documents (BRD) at an early phase of the project (even before formal project approval), often with Return on Investment (ROI) and measurable business objectives. And it ensures a focus on the business needs regardless of whether IT or another department supplies the resources.

PM resources and tools are great, but project success is not just about PM. You can have excellent scope management, task completion, budget management, resource management and cutover, and yet sow the seeds of failure. While the project team is cutting the celebratory cake, the users (frontline staff, supervisors/management, even customers) may not be on board, and the vendor may be reassigning staff. Within days or weeks, the technology is underutilized (or ignored), and the knowledgeable vendor resources have moved on to their next project.

Change management (CM) is about helping people adopt the process and technology changes the project presents, and institute practices that will ensure those changes keep delivering business value. Projects are not just about implementing the capital investment of hardware and software, or operational costs of cloud-based solutions. CM is about people who use that technology.

CM typically comes from HR for enterprise-impacting projects such as a new CRM system that will be used by many departments. A contact center leader might handle CM for center-specific projects, often without the benefit of formal training. It can work well if change is limited and the leader invests sufficient time in the project. In the best of worlds, all persons who carry the CM mantle should also be equipped with training and tools.

Vendor management (VM) is about ensuring the vendor and internal project teams are aligned every step of the way, and the vendor’s focus also remains on business success. VM is also critical for the inevitable bumps and changes that will occur as a project progresses. This description may sound fundamental, but it’s often at odds with a vendor’s goals to use only the resources allocated, march as quickly as possible to cutover, issue milestone invoices and/or start billing, and move the solution into production status. The classic scenario is a vendor (or their partner providing the professional services) pushing for the ease and speed of implementing technology that matches the existing environment with no redesign.

VM requires managers managing managers (say that three times fast!) and direct, active engagement. Align your plan with the vendor’s plan, but don’t combine them. Recognize you may need to point out gaps or concerns with the vendor’s plan. Typical examples are not enough time for testing or lead time on network connectivity. Make sure roles and responsibilities are clear, especially for things like third party services (e.g., network connectivity). And keep in mind the vendor won’t manage your IT during the project, or any third party vendor relationship that you own.

To get the three Ms right, review each discipline’s processes and responsibilities with vendors during the requirements, selection, and planning process so that expectations are clear. This approach impacts the vendor’s professional services– resources, timelines, tasks, etc.—and should feed into their Statement of Work (SOW). Work with PMO, HR, or other internal departments to define their needs and how they will fit in the overall plan. Use the available resources most effectively for the defined scope. And don’t forget, the internal PM must build CM- and VM-specific tasks into the project plan and oversee each.

Project Management (PM) is typically the focus of formal practices and the associated resources and training. Change Management (CM) and Vendor Management (VM) are just as important. They should go hand-in-hand with PM to meet timelines, manage budgets and resources, AND deliver the (ongoing) outcomes and results expected.