Paula Neary is CEO of Ribbonfish. She has over 20 years of experience in senior roles across academic, education, trade and STM publishing. Prior to working at Ribbonfish she was Director of Business Systems at Springer Nature.
There are so many things to consider when implementing new technology within a publishing or media business. In our experience projects (however large or small) usually fail or under-deliver due to a small list of common mistakes. We hope these pointers will help you avoid unnecessary pitfalls.
1) Managing the change
Never under-estimate the potential impact of business change. Projects are very rarely “just technology projects” and adapting business processes requires very clear communication, guidance and training. Managing and communicating change clearly, allows everyone to understand, commit to, accept and embrace new working practices. This improves the chances of successful delivery of a project.
A good starting point here is to expect resistance to change. Some people resist change in principle, others might find it scary and uncomfortable. Without effective change management, team members won’t instinctively know what to do or what is happening, which can be disorientating.
Look to key staff to help you, and never stop communicating and referring back to the project scope and business case to remind everyone involved about the bigger picture.
2) Project Scope and Business case
The deliverables should be clearly defined. By articulating the aims, hopes and rationale of the project clearly from the outset, the chances of success are much higher. The following things should be detailed and documented clearly:
- Context and Drivers
- Success Criteria
- Financial and non-financial benefits
During the project life-cycle, as you get into the detail, there will always be a need for trade-offs! There will be proposals for changes and extensions to the original project scope. These are so much easier to manage if there is an original project definition and set of success criteria to refer-back to.
Teams should question whether the change really adheres to the overall vision, and if it really provides benefit. It can take time and effort to get project scopes signed off and agreed, but without this, there can be real issues when evaluating and deciding on change requests later-on.
3) Project Governance
This is all about agreeing a project framework including a set of policies, processes, procedures and responsibilities that define the management and control of the project.
Individuals need to be put in place to take responsibility for each side of a customer / technology partnership: an in-house Project Owner who champions the project, owns the vision and the business case and importantly has the authority to make decisions. Then a Project Manager to drive the project through to completion in accordance with the agreed framework and the agreed outcomes, in terms of scope, quality, timescale and budget.
4) Communication plan
Communication can always be improved, in every business.
From the outset, project steering groups can decide how frequently status updates are required and who should deliver them. It’s vital to broadcast the project rationale and the desired outcomes – by articulating and stating objectives the chances of success are higher.
Communication should be upwards to senior management to keep them informed. The Project Steering Group need information to be well-equipped for making decisions on budget, timescale, resources and scope. Communication needs to extend to all stakeholders that will be impacted in any way by the project. Nothing should be a surprise!
Regular communication will:
- Increase knowledge and awareness about the project and ensure a widespread understanding of what tasks need focusing on next
- Provide opportunities for all stakeholders to give feedback and present ideas
- Create a “buzz” about the project fostering dialogue among team members and other stakeholders
Each business will have its preferred method of communicating. For technology projects – this should be a combination of status reports, blogs, informal and formal group meetings.
5) Availability of key stakeholders
Projects should be driven by business need and should be part of a growth strategy or initiated to improve efficiency. It is essential that users are involved throughout the entire lifecycle, after all they understand their business the most. It is necessary to engage both senior managers and subject matter experts throughout.
It is always worth meticulously planning how much of key stakeholder time will be needed and diarising group meetings early on. The sooner you identify key users and involve them in the project, the more connected they will feel – and this will ensure that you get the support you need.
Stakeholders will have different expectations and requirements. Treat them and involve them individually based on this. It will also increase the project’s chance of success. Their individual interest and influence on a project might vary over the course of the project lifecycle – and you need to engage them when they can have the greatest impact!
Aside from outstanding technical skills, the Ribbonfish team have two main things in common – a passion for the publishing industry and a desire to deliver phenomenal customer service. To find out about their innovative solutions for publishing and media, contact the team.