Implementing organization-wide reporting can be an incredibly complex and challenging task. As with the management of any project, each of the five stages presents unique obstacles that can hinder success.
Where organizational reporting projects are well thought out, planned, executed, monitored and controlled, and closed, however, they can bring extraordinary benefits to the organization.
Below is our guide on what to expect at each stage of the project, and how to overcome the challenges associated with them.
This stage is critical to the success of any Enterprise Reporting project and consists of 3 sub-phases: determining project scope, identifying potential obstacles, and removing potential roadblocks.
The foundational first step to determining scope is analyzing business requirements in order to decide on whether the project even merits further exploration – after all, where there’s no need to implement Enterprise reporting (it already exists in another effective form, or the organization is not yet collecting accurate data, for example), even continuing the initiation stage is inefficient.
Once a need has been identified, financial and stakeholder analysis should follow to estimate resource and budgetary commitments required, and the individuals/teams that will play a critical role in the project. Additionally, this stage consists of mapping out estimated project costs, tasks, deliverables and a timeline.
To successfully determine project scope, include as many potential stakeholders as possible in this process. Where you attempt to go it alone you may find that you miss critical steps, have a skewed perception of business requirements or miscalculate the true cost of resources needed. Additionally, because so many individuals/teams/profiles are impacted by enterprise reporting implementations, not taking their opinions, requirements, and recommended scope into account from the beginning can lead to significant delays later on as you backtrack to resolve shortcomings of your solution.
Conversely, while it’s important to be extremely thorough at this stage, make sure that you work as efficiently and methodically as possible. Ironically, creating a mini scope of this part of the project can be very helpful, especially in ensuring you are completing tasks by a set deadline. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see projects completely fall apart at this early stage simply because this step is not completed efficiently.
In addition, the current business environment and internal operations should be understood and summarized to ensure that you’re able to identify potential obstacles to a successful project, and guarantee sufficient access to resources. Likewise, undertaking SWOT analysis will shine a light on threats to project success and potential weaknesses in the project plan, and also guide you in identifying the strengths and opportunities presented by the project. Focus on these to achieve stakeholder buy in.
Again, avoid tunnel vision at this stage by including a representative range of relevant stakeholders. Working with individuals across teams, with different perspectives, and experience levels, can assist you in identifying obstacles you might not have foreseen alone.
For example, it’s unlikely that a business stakeholder will have an understanding of the way in which 3rd party data collection tools evolve and thus impact reporting. Even IT may struggle with this and require assistance from those working with these solutions every day. In the same manner, individuals in one department may have very rigid structures for requesting assistance, while those in another may work in a completely different manner and frequently share ad hoc requests. Having an understanding of the way in which teams work, and ensuring you can cater to their needs, or are able to incite a successful change in the way they work, would therefore be required for effective universal adoption.
After identifying potential obstacles, work to remove these for efficient progression of the project and to ensure that it will eventually meet organizational needs. At this stage it’s also important to run cost-benefit analysis on removing each roadblock. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to make a compromise between being fully prepared and completing this stage on time and to budget. Afterall, if you max out your budget early, you might get shut down long before you’ve even gotten close to implementing organizational reporting.
As enormous as roadblocks like insufficient resources, or reduced budgets might be, at least they are clear cut. The implementation of enterprise reporting is susceptible to additional challenges simply because it is a process built around people, who all bring their own unique influence. Roadblocks may be as abstract as ingrained cultural practices or attitudes, so don’t forget to consider these types of obstacles when getting started.
At this stage you should be planning out timelines, costs and resource requirements. Doing so effectively can help you understand time, effort, deliverables and resources required, as well as manage risk later on.
Getting the right team together, creating a Statement of Work and employing methodologies for effective planning can help you succeed at this stage, as can breaking down tasks and properly aligning these with your delivery schedules. Likewise, simultaneously planning the implementation and conceptually designing the solution can lead to efficiencies in both processes.
To be as effective as possible at this stage, consider the following challenges. We’ve shared some key questions for each to help you avoid unsurpassable impacts:
Where you’ve successfully planned, executing should be a relatively pain-free stage. At this stage you should implement the reporting solution you previously designed, deliver all appropriate documentation around it and inform all relevant stakeholders.
Execution is frequently far from the end of the story when implementing enterprise reporting (and likely any major project). It’s extremely rare that execution goes exactly to plan, and the monitoring and controlling phase is the time at which you should be observing implementation, identifying problems in a timely manner and resolving them.
As so many individuals are involved in enterprise reporting, you may find yourself bombarded with questions after implementation. Even where you implemented a multi-stage approach, planned communication, rolled out to test groups and gathered feedback along the way, human behavior is unpredictable and continual requests can potentially interrupt focus. Remain on task, however, as this stage is about understanding where implementation didn’t go exactly as planned. That’s not to say, where it doesn’t meet the expectations of each individual reporting user, but where it strayed from the management plan put into place. This could mean differences between the cost, effort and scope outlined and the reality of these, it could also mean skewed timelines or unmet objectives.
Where any deviation occurs, consult the contingency plans you put in place. In the scenario where a completely unforeseen obstacle pops us, you should rely on committees you created for the addressing of such issues, and attempt to draw on the collective experience of your team to find both sufficient short-term solutions, and optimal long term solutions. Afterall, speed may be an important factor in gaining the initial trust of those stakeholders you expect to use the solution over time, Don’t forget to go back and revisit the stopgap you put in place though. At a later stage, consider it with the luxury of time and use your experience to implement the best solution possible.
Even where the time sensitivity of certain requirements applies pressure, continue to follow the processes put into place for approving and executing changes required. After all, efficiencies are only gained where corrective action is taken in a logical manner compliant with systems in place.
Aside from monitoring the execution of your enterprise reporting, maintaining it over the longer term is critical for ongoing success of the project. End user support, adjustments as data sources evolve, and solution improvements will all be required. Over the longer term, you’ll likely also see scope creep and be required to address further stakeholder requests. It’s crucial to evaluate requests both within the evolving environment, but also to continually reassess the original project objectives and viability of the existing solution. It’s incredibly difficult in projects such as enterprise reporting to find a viable compromise between all stakeholder requests and project objectives, budget and timeframes, but effective management of both will ensure project success.
To make sure you’re on track, you should be continually asking yourself if the project is aligned with original objectives, timeframes and budget, and if not, how you can get back to this.
This final stage consists of formal acceptance of the project and documentation of lessons learned.
Typical mistakes at this stage are not gaining formal acceptance through the correct channels – or from sufficient stakeholders, not taking the time to properly document unforeseen issues and more commonly, not spending enough time on analysing performance, sharing insights on what happened and why, or documenting recommendations for similar future implementations. After all, the value of a reporting project is not limited to the efficiencies it will bring you in terms of time, better resource allocation, performance optimization and increased ROI, but also in the collaboration around data it promotes, the definition of a common reporting framework and creation of workflows. These learnings can likely be transferred across many different tasks and adapted throughout many parts of the organization.
What were your biggest challenges to rolling out enterprise reporting and how did you overcome these?
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