Involving the Users

One view of implementation is to shelter the users from it: get all the work done within the technical team and then unveil the glorious finished product to the appropriately awed users. I don't buy it. Actually, I believe that having users involved throughout the implementation increases the quality of the final deliverable, increases the adoption rate of the new system, and is a good investment of the users' time. As discussed in , "Selecting the CRM Team," the best way to involve the users is to select a team of so-called super-users to participate in the project (in addition to the business owners, that is). Other individuals should also be added at crucial junctures, as discussed throughout this chapter. Since you want to attract top performers to be super-users, it's crucial to orchestrate their participation carefully so that it has minimal impact on their availability for other tasks, and, very important, that they never feel that their time is wasted. Throughout the entire project, but particularly throughout the implementation phase, a good project manager protects and leverages the time of the super-users, carefully balancing the need for low impact against the requirements for their participation. Don't dump work on the super-users! At the same time, the project manager should monitor the performance of the super-users and quickly move to resolve any issues, including replacing super-users who are not contributing. Strong ties with the business owners helps with all aspects of successfully managing super-users. If the project manager for the implementation is the integrator, and especially if that individual is more on the technical side, it's helpful to put in place a business project manager responsible for coordinating the activities within the business function(s), both with super-users and with the business owners. That individual does not need to be on the integrator's team, but needs good ties with the technical project manager. On larger projects, it's a full-time job. What should super-users be involved in?

  • The kickoff workshop. The super-users bring a good dose of reality into the discussion. They also know how the job is really done on a daily basis, something that may not be completely clear to the business owners, at least in larger organizations.
  • The definition of the use cases. The super-users know the crucial steps in their work and can translate them into solid use cases.
  • Each project milestone. If you follow my recommendations to make each milestone a deliverable, as limited as it may need to be, then the super-users should be asked to review it as it is delivered, with the help of the use cases. If something's not quite right, as is most often the case, then back to the development team it goes.
  • Training. The super-users' input to the training materials and delivery mechanisms is precious since they have actual hands-on experience. The training materials are a deliverable just like any other and should be reviewed by them as well. By the time training comes along, however, the super-users know too much about the project to be reliable reviewers for suitability (they are great reviewers for content, however). Super-users are not infrequently asked to deliver some of the training. This is a suitable use of their talent and knowledge, although they should not be overly burdened.

Should super-users be involved in the daily status checks? Probably not en masse, for two reasons. First, it's impractical to expect that they will be available daily. Second, there may be relatively little action from their point of view on a daily basis. I like to encourage super-users to attend the status checks when they can, for instance by making sure that there is a standing conference call set up for them to use at their convenience. For the most part, their presence should be required mostly for milestones and as determined necessary by the project manager.