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Top tips for implementing an enterprise work management solution

James Murray, vice president and EMEA managing director at Workfront, explores how to implement an enterprise work management solution Top tips for implementing an enterprise work management solution image

Implementing an effective enterprise work management solution can draw comparisons with this proverb — “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

In other words, it’s easy to lose sight of one’s initial objective and not foresee unintended consequences as we get caught up in the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of projects and tasks that develop a life distinct from the original goal that brought them into existence.

Before considering the implementation of any new tool, it’s imperative that you consider how goals cascade down the organisation. Using the proverb as an example, the ultimate objective is to drain the swamp, but the ‘user story’ goal should be to have ‘all alligators happily relocated’ beforehand.

Successful implementations are driven by executive buy-in, and the three questions senior stakeholders want answered at every stage of an implementation are:

● Where are we now?
● Where do we want to be?
● How do we get there?

Where are we now?

The world of work is changing rapidly, now more than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a sudden shift to remote working that is accelerating digital transformation and the way we look at and think about work, and how and indeed where work should be done.

Long before our enforced self-isolation, collaboration and visibility were major challenges for businesses. Most work requires collaboration across departmental silos and teams, with workforces spanning different offices and time zones. Add to this the different departmental technology stacks and processes, it’s no surprise that many enterprises cannot collaborate effectively and visibility across an entire organisation is almost impossible. ‘Flying by the seat of our pants’ is a phrase for a reason.

Today, we take our functional silos home, creating thousands of individual silos across the organisation — at a time when collaboration and visibility have never been so critical to business survival.

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Where do we want to be?

We need to do more with less. Not just in one department but enterprise-wide. We need to make decisions quickly on trade-offs and priorities. We need to be effective at seeing what is working and what is not. Excellence at allocating resources across the entire enterprise will enable us to move from surviving to thriving as we emerge from this crisis.

For siloed teams, a work management solution is the digital equivalent to a shared front garden for neighbours living with walls too thick to permit anything but the most muffled of exchanges. They openly share thoughts and ideas, working on joint-projects whilst enjoying access to information in the houses designed for their unique needs.

In an enterprise work management world the front garden scales globally across all boundaries, processes, people, data (or information) and technology. No travel needed. Clear visibility. And it never rains.

Where most enterprises ‘want to be’ is a place where all business technology systems are tied together into one orchestrated, accessible, and user-friendly solution, ensuring that different departments no longer work in silos. Staff around the world can access the library of all work ever done, resulting in a more collaborative relationship across the whole business. A cross-functional solution but also a multi-level solution so that the board’s goal of draining the swamp to increase land-values reaches the business division responsible for alligator relocation.

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How do we get there?

With the need for enterprise work management clear, the next question is how to effectively implement one in your business. Below are six key steps you can take to implement an enterprise work management solution to ensure the transition happens smoothly across your organisation.

1. Know your maturity level — crawl, walk, jog, run

First things first, it’s important to clearly establish where you are on your journey to enterprise work management. Whatever your maturity level, you don’t need to fear that it will take months or years to implement a new platform, but you should recognise three key factors that influence how you approach an implementation:

● Do you know which processes will be impacted to achieve your goals?
● Are the people involved ready for a new way of working?
● Is this a priority and do you know your defining objectives for each business area involved?

If your enterprise work management maturity level is ‘adolescent’ or less and adopting work management is a business priority, I strongly recommend both dipping your toe in with a ‘quick start’ package based on your maturity, and committing resources to ensure the strongest possible adoption and usage rates. Such packages should come complete with out-of-the-box language taxonomies that speak to the business division/s who will be using the platform. They should also provide necessary reporting so you can see the power of managing your work this way.

2. Create a vision and roadmap with your partner

With the first successes under your belt it’s time to think bigger. Where you go next to maintain the momentum should be influenced by three factors: the complexity and risk involved, the time it will take, and the value it will deliver.

The vision we have for our customers is an operational system of record (OSR) in which work management provides the software backbone of enterprises. An OSR connects all facets of work being done in teams and departments across the whole organisation. In Munich many years ago I heard these sage words uttered over a beer, “If only Siemens knew what Siemens knows”. Lack of visibility will become a thing of the past — all that enterprises ‘know’ will be discoverable in the library of all the work ever done.

The roadmap to reach OSR for any enterprise is entirely unique to that business; we know this at Workfront having supported more than 3,000 enterprise customers in reimagining how work is done across their organisations. The most successful approach to implementation comes in two flavours. The first is ‘prescriptive’ where the enterprise work management partner provides a series of ‘known quantities’ that have been delivered before and can ‘stand-up’ within weeks — think campaign management for marketing or PMO for corporate IT.

The second flavour is ‘custom’ where the specific, unique work requirements of the enterprise are united with work management solutions in an expertly configured package. How quickly this is implemented depends on the capabilities of your partner, the scale of the challenges your organisation needs to overcome, and the buy-in of key stakeholders.

3. Standardise your processes

Developing standardised processes requires up-front effort to implement and adhere to, but the long-term results are worth it. The easiest way to begin this is by creating regimented templates for repeatable work: map out descriptive steps in order, add a timeframe, and state the skills needed for the task. Templates help organisations save time, improve resource planning, and avoid rework or errors. Expect massive returns if you get this right.

4. Adopt a solution that manages every step of the work lifecycle

One of the biggest issues with many productivity tools in an enterprise environment is that they create disjointed workflows that are difficult to scale. Once you have thought about configuring the processes that define the backbone of your work lifecycle, make sure you have a tool that provides you with visibility and collaboration across the entire enterprise. This will ensure that workflows remain consistent and still provide users with the ability to manage their work the way they want.

5. Integrate people, process and technology

Enterprise work management solutions must bring people, process, and technology together in one place. If not, then guess what? You just created another silo. Finance, Marketing, Sales, Logistics, Production, R&D, HR, etcetera. must all be able to come to the enterprise work management solution knowing that the data in their heritage silos is available for usage in decision-making within this new neutral ‘third place’.

6. Create advocates and hug a user today

Ultimately, work management solutions were created to make people’s lives easier. To make sure you get all team members on board with an enterprise work management solution, start with a test user group who can champion the tool across your organisation.

This group will share the benefits and success stories of work management back to their team in terms and examples that will have the most impact, such as less time in meetings and less of the working day spent on email communication or having to input data into multiple different platforms.

With visibility into progress, the need for constant written and verbal updates decreases, freeing up each individual’s time to do their best work. The work you put in to ‘hug’ a user and get them confident and happy will exponentially increase adoption and ROI longer-term.

As the world of work continues to change in unprecedented ways, enterprises must embrace a cohesive way to deal with this increasingly disconnected business landscape.

With all departments working and collaborating together on a shared platform, work will become truly visible across the whole business and productivity, and accountability, will rise.

Written by James Murray, vice president and EMEA managing director at Workfront

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