Successful delivery of large projects or initiatives can be elusive. Technology projects in particular have difficulty meeting expectations, staying on time and on budget. For example, CRM projects include significant organizational change as well as a technology deployment.
CRM is a very popular topic today in higher education, particularly to support the student lifecycle. The available technology options can be very confusing, but the technology is not the guarantee of success. In recent discussions about successful implementation of CRM solutions, two questions seem to dominate:
- What is the best way to define a CRM project?
- When do you identify the success criteria for the project?
These are two very good questions because they relate to success and are not focused on the technology.
Defining a CRM Project
A CRM project with the objective to manage the entire student lifecycle is a significant project by any measure. In higher education, the removal of the various silos in order to collaborate on the student lifecycle is difficult to say the least. The organizational change necessary to complete the project will be significant. Many times the project can be doomed to failure or disappointment from the very beginning.
How to avoid a negative result? Start by setting expectations clearly at all levels of the organization and take time to define the project. We recommend using a strategic planning approach to defining the project, accomplished by answering a few key questions:
- Who are we as an organization?
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How will we get there?
- How will we know how we are doing?
Clearly identifying the vision, current state, plan, and measures of success provides the guidance to a successful project. As it will in any project, resistance to change will appear, but having the solid foundation helps to keep stakeholders focused on the expected results.
Identifying Success Criteria
One of the normal follow-up questions to the strategic planning approach is: When do we define the success criteria? Defining the success criteria is the culmination of the vision. It is how the stakeholders and the rest of the organization know the project has been successful. Without the clear definition of success, it is difficult to determine when a project is complete. More importantly, it is difficult to see when the project is going off course in order to make corrections during implementation. I am sure the concept of a project complete is not new to anyone. Declaring the project complete is another way of saying the project is off track, we are not clear if it is done, but we need to stop working on it and move to the next initiative.
The takeaway? Defining success at the very beginning and maintaining the discipline of the vision leads to a successful project implementation.