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When DIY needs change and project management

Cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) have introduced a sea change in how we think about software, whether at home or in the office. One of the biggest shifts is the trend towards DIY – encouraged by SaaS service providers who tell us how quick and easy their services are to access. Software is now a commodity that we can easily compare, choose, download, and implement on a quiet afternoon before a bank holiday.


Or is it?


I’d argue that this is not always the case. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that activities such as change management and project management have gone the same way as the comptroller, the paper ledger, and the on-premises server room. This could be a mistake, however, and could jeopardise your investments in the new system, as well as its uptake, its impact on your business, and the future of any IT implementation in your organisation.


Hold your horses!


Why is the founder and managing director of a SaaS-based financial software company seemingly pulling the rug out from under one of the most significant benefits of SaaS? Well, because I’d argue that it all depends. Whether or not you might still need project and change management rests on several things, including your in-house experience and skills, the complexity of the system, and how extensive your service provider’s library and support service is.


Why you may still need change and project management in a SaaS world


These are some of the potential risks you face that might make you decide that need change and project management to ensure the success of your SaaS implementation.


1.      People could revert to old, inefficient ways of doing things if they are anxious, overwhelmed, or fear change. Your people need to be brought along on the journey and the new system should make their lives easier, not more complicated or confusing.

2.      You might replicate how you’ve always worked, and, by forcing the system to fit your workflow, you will miss out on new, innovative, faster ways of doing things.

3.      You could overlook some of the features of the new system or poorly implement the service, limiting your ROI.

4.      A “quick” DIY project can spiral into something that takes a long time and is more costly and painful than expected.

5.      If you need to migrate data into the new system, you could end up with incomplete and inaccurate data transfers, impacting customer trust and compliance.

6.      Cost and scope creep, which further impact the time and money spent.

7.      Frustration, resentment and lack of trust in the new system from your people.


Ultimately all these risks come down to the project taking longer and costing more, impacting your speed to revenue, total cost of ownership and return on investment. In addition, disgruntled, frustrated and fearful employees could become mistrustful of the technology, and any future IT projects, limiting the positive impact of tech and innovation on your business, and your chances of securing budget allocation for future software.


In some cases, change management and project management, done well, are still critical to the success of software implementations, even in a SaaS world.


It depends


Of course, the level of change and project management required depends on the number of users and the impact of the new software on the broader business. But arguably even a solopreneur needs to spend some time thinking about how they will migrate from one system or way of working to a new one.


If there is more than one person involved, you will likely need some form of change and project management. What this ultimately will look like changes from project to project and depends on how many people are involved, how many ways the software is used, how critical the system and its data are, and how large a migration is involved.


The next question to ask is who should play these roles? Again it depends, but arguably if change and project management are needed, it is better to involve third parties familiar with the software and how it works. If you appoint someone in-house, they could be too familiar with the current way you work, and are likely to fit the software to the processes and not the other way around.


Protecting your investment


Another shift in the narrative that SaaS and cloud have introduced is the move away from fixed, capital expenditure. But even though you aren’t paying a large lump sum at the outset, and you can scale your costs according to your requirements, you are still investing in the service. And you need to work hard to unlock and protect that investment with a successful implementation, that includes full, ongoing user adoption of the new way of working.


On top of that, you want to avoid surprise costs or extended timeframes during the implementation, and get to a point where you can start seeing a return on your investment as soon as possible. I’d argue that, in many cases, an investment in change and project management will support this. So it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, just because this is SaaS. Instead, each case should be considered on its own merits, and within your specific context.





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