It is typical for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or Extended ECM (xECM by OpenText) are still a niche type of project. That means that, the customers do not have extensive experience with these types of projects. It is different when it comes to for example ERP or CRM projects, for which customers usually have strong inhouse competences.
However, this is nothing to be concerned about. It is quite common that companies purchase this needed expertise externally, both for project implementation, as well as, support or application maintenance services.
Obviously, it is key to select and work with experienced specialist vendors rather than generalists. At the very least it is important to complement the generalist system integrator with a specialist vendor. The experience, dedication and focus of an external vendor can bring you a valuable experience which an organization does not have inhouse. Then there is no danger of being unprepared from the beginning.
If you focus on below top 5 TO DO’s you can avoid any (x)ECM project disaster. The list is in random order, as certain aspects might be more relevant to one customer compared to another. The topics listed are concrete and focused on project setup and project execution.
Something important to take notice of, which is not included, is project governance. You need senior management stakeholders to outline the strategic directives. E.g., is the directive standard best practice (as the process in question is not considered a competitive differentiator) or company specific to get that differentiator from competition? Depending on the situation and strategic directives, one can handle evaluation of custom developments versus standard best practice.
TO DO 1 – Involve the business
Business involvement is needed throughout the project, not only at beginning or towards the end. Only this way you can secure building a solution that not only works, but is also suitable for the organization. The representative(s) from the company should be people with in-depth insights in how the business works, be able to split the must-have´s from the nice-to-have´s and have access to real users in the company for validation or review of solution design decisions.
TO DO 2 – Insist on user stories
Insist on user stories during requirements analysis phase. They help to move you from something vague to something more specific. In modern times, our advice is to keep the Solution Design and Requirements Analysis phase short. For several reasons, one of them being that requirements tend to change over time. There is a learning curve on the customer side to getting a progressive better understanding of the ECM solution (see point 3). Despite approaching this phase in compact and efficient manner, it is key to have clarity on the requirements. Asking the customer to write out the requirements in user stories will turn out to be of immense value.
A good user story is characterized by the following:
- Scenario – Indicate what part of the process the user story is relevant to
- Use case description
- Role – Who executes, what type of end-user performs what actions
TO DO 3 – Embrace change, be agile
Be agile enough to allow changes, as they will happen. Embrace the mantra that “Changing requirements are better requirements”. Value the learning curve and let go of the mindset that everything is known upfront. However, this is not a free ticket take things as we you go along and be unstructured without a plan. Be clear upfront on the vision and the direction, then plan for that.
Tip: plan Solution Design in Sprints, clubbing solution aspects logically together.
TO DO 4 – Organize an iterative Build phase
Make sure to have short iterations during Build phase (Sprints) and plan for testing by the organization. In case the company cannot free itself up for testing, make sure to plan for short demo´s after each sprint to show and then collect feedback for the organization.
TO DO 5 – Pay attention to technical Infrastructure
Experience tells us that projects fail or get delayed due to people rather than technology. However, a solid infrastructure and technical architecture are key. Make sure to have scalable architecture to deal with growth of users and content while protecting reliable performance. Plan to have a good and experienced Architect for this piece, as such insights and competences come with years and are typically never exhaustively described by the software documentation or trainings.
Keep an eye on those aspects and you will not fail and deliver on time. Good luck and, importantly, enjoy the project and the value you are adding to your organization.
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