Top 5 Implementation Risks: #5 Historically, It Is About the History

This is my fifth (but mostly likely not final) reflection on what I see are the top risks to SaaS implementations.

Ellen Loughrin PhotoBased on my nine years of experience, I’m looking at the “enterprise environmental factors” that, if addressed intentionally, can aid the successful implementation of SaaS software like SAP’s SuccessFactors.

What’s the Story?

Human beings are hardwired for storytelling. I’ve watched audiences or groups of people sit restlessly until they hear, “Let me tell you a story…” and almost enchantingly, they collectively wiggle their fannies into their seats and pose like expectant schoolchildren eager to hear what comes next.

Storytelling abounds in any communal setting—including and maybe especially—the workplace. It may come in snippets, “…let me tell you what happened the last time we tried that…” or even the more obvious, “Let me tell you a story about our last software implementation…it was the second year I came to this company…”

In these stories the community’s history is conveyed to the listener. Is it factual? Well, when it comes to stories fact isn’t always the point. A favorite storytelling saying is, “I don’t know if this happened but I know that it is true…” There are messages, morals or lessons in a story that the listener takes from the story as “truths” or “facts”. Even in this post-Enlightenment-rational-technology-based society, we flock to movies and television and read books all to hear stories and the messages they give us. Some of them are even true.

Learning from History

Stories may tell the history of a collective group of people. This history give both an identity and a direction to the community guiding the group on what to do to survive successfully and warning of dangers to be avoided.

So, if an organization has had a history, shared with others in the organization in formal or informal storytelling, it become a lesson for the listeners. If the history of implementation contains stories of previously unsuccessful implementations, that history is going to influence how a new attempt of an implementation is going to be perceived—consciously or subconsciously. It influences how the team approaches a project be it warily or enthusiastically. It will influence how a team members perceive their chances of “survival” of the project and their careers. It influences how the team approaches the implementing consultants and their SOW, methodology, and personnel (see my earlier article on football). It will ultimately influence how successful the project is.

New Chapter

It always comes back to being aware and intentional with these risks. Being aware that the history of previous implementations can influence a new implementation is the first step. Project sponsors and leaders who openly acknowledge the history of like-projects with their implementing team is a powerful beginning.

The next step is for the leaders of the community to call for a new chapter in the story of the organization. At this juncture it is imperative for leadership to inspire the team to learn from the past project and give permission to the team to move forward without fear and with open minds to new experiences and approaches.

It is about inspiring a new history and a new story of a software implementation team that was able to successfully implement a solution that benefited all the employees!

Happily Ever After

Sound like a movie with Dwayne Johnson in it? Well, maybe. All stories have a hero of sorts, and your SAP SuccessFactors implementation team can be the heroes. (HINT* All good relatable heroes have flaws…be okay with the redeeming flaws of your heroes—don’t expect them to be flawless)

History is about stories. Stories are about people. And, I’ve said it before, all projects are people projects. History is a powerful influencer on the people of your projects. It can persuade them that they will most likely fail…or it can offer a new chapter where the team triumphs and new history is made for the good of all the people. And in this story, everyone can be the Hero.

Thank you for reading my posts about SaaS Implementation Risks. I welcome your comments. Please feel free to reach out to me through LinkedIn. ~Ellen

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