A Blue Print of Know-How

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to remodel our kitchen. As with most couples, I was thinking upgrade (aka the cheap route) and she was thinking reimplementation (aka dream kitchen renovation). After looking at the big picture, the effort involved, cost, length of time we were planning to live in the house, and increased resale value, we weighed the pros and cons and went with reimplementation.

The project was a major investment – and we needed to make sure that we got what we wanted. We started by contacting several building contractors and interior designers and even paid for a few designs to get ideas. Our hope was that one person or company could design and articulate our vision. Instead, we found that we liked bits and pieces of different solutions, but not one single solution blew us away.

We realized we needed a blueprint of know-how that would actualize our vision while protecting our investment. We realized that the quality of final product would directly correlate to our level of involvement. We also realized that any solution we found would need to work with us – with flexibility and accountability.

We went to a big box retailer and worked with them to design the kitchen that we wanted and to conduct the project. Understanding that the retailer would subcontract most of the work, I wanted to go with a brand name that had both the project know-how as well as a defined escalation path for issue resolution.

What ensued was a typical construction project – not unlike a major software implementation. For several months, we were inconvenienced with contractors coming and going and having to set up a makeshift kitchen in our dining room. As expected, there were design issues, implementation issues and people issues. And yes, there were issues that needed to be escalated, making me glad that we went with a vendor with whom we could escalate and resolve issues with – even on the weekend.

Developing a blueprint for know-how is critical for any large scale project – from building a dream kitchen to implementing enterprise software. Spend the time to define the key elements first:

1.Pick what is right for your organization and shop around before you issue a request for proposal. Most software vendors and implementation firms are trying to interpret your vision. As with the kitchen project, we liked different pieces of different solutions. We went back to a couple vendors to see who was the most flexible and would incorporate our ideas and the ideas of their competitors into our project. Too many organizations do not spend enough time in the pre-bid process defining what they want. In the end, they issue a generic request for proposal and assume a vendor will magically interpret their ideas to develop the ideal solution.

2. Set expectations up front. Realize that there will be issues – there always are. Make sure that clear expectations about responsibility and liability are set by all parties before you get started.

3. Manage scope. Make sure everybody understands what is in and out of scope and what the process is for issue escalation and resolution. With the complexities of large projects, change requests are a given. When a customer is spending a lot of money with a particular vendor, there are expectations that smaller items should be included in the project. The reality is that while sometimes that may be the case, in other situations there must be compromise – especially if the item is significantly out of scope.

4. Build relationships within the team. Large-scale, long-term projects put relationships to the test. Ensure good communications by developing a listening relationship – people work better with open minds and doors.

5. Leverage your know-how. Whether it’s a renovation project for your home or software applications implementation in your organization, when you finish one you realize how dated the rest have become. Once we finished our kitchen, we began renovating other rooms in our house. But two things were different this time: we had the know-how to manage the project ourselves and had built a network of contractors who were familiar with our environment and how we liked things done.

That’s a blueprint of know-how.

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