Budgeting for technology projects isn’t easy – even with the most detailed due diligence and planning there are likely unknowns that can derail your budget or even the project altogether.
Look out for these common traps – both “soft” costs that may not be apparent up front, or hard costs that for whatever reason weren’t captured during planning:
Who and how will you manage your project? Does that individual(s) have capacity to proactively drive the project, including governance, change control, administration, communications, risk management, and any “office politics” that seem to be brought out by large projects? Note that project management effort will vary throughout the project – often heavier in project initiation and planning – but I like to plan for some level of excess capacity throughout that can be used as appropriate when the inevitable needs arise.
Staff Time for Design
Whether you’re implementing an “off-the-shelf” technology solution, a custom application, or some combination thereof, you’ll likely need subject matter experts to be involved. Determine what that involvement should look like, and make sure they have capacity to focus on their role in the project as well as carry out their day-to-day duties. For mission-critical functions, consider backstopping staff with temporary or loaned resources from another department, if possible.
It is heartbreaking to get through a technology project, only to see it falter after go-live because staff didn’t understand how or why to use the system. Consider the readiness of staff to adopt the new system when planning and budgeting. I like to allocate some level of effort to change management and adoption readiness for every project.
New program? Requiring lots of change in the organization? And custom development? Be sure to anticipate the possibility of requirement changes as your organization and its underlying business needs evolve. For better or worse new requirements often come up even with the most detailed planning and stringent change control.
This may go without saying, but have you confirmed what (if any) travel costs are included in the budget? Pay particular attention when multiple vendors, consultants, or geographically dispersed stakeholders are involved and will require face-to-face collaboration. Depending on your budgeting process, it may be worth identifying remote vs. virtual activities and the anticipated number of attendees for each. If warranted, look into pre-negotiated arrangements with local hotels to help manage costs.
Maintenance and Ongoing Assistance
Projects end but operations are ongoing; ensure you have adequate staffing to drive value out of your technology investment. For instance, developing reports for new initiatives or developing additional user documentation or job aids.
How will you train the user community in preparation for the project? Prior to testing and acceptance? Prior to go-live and beyond? Depending on the initiative, traditional classroom style instruction may or may not make sense. Also consider electronic learning (anything from videos and “try its” on your network to a full learning management system) or regular “check ins” with your community via online meeting or internal social networks. Many technology providers, including Blackbaud, offer training curricula for all levels of sophistication.
Planning for Future Phases and Initiatives
Do you have “nice to have” requirements that didn’t make it into the initial implementation? Other offices that weren’t accounted for in design and are awaiting a future roll out? Consider planning for these initiatives while still in “project mode” to keep the momentum and leverage the enthusiasm from the design and acceptance team.
When in doubt, review the assumptions used to craft the project scope and approach, and ensure these remain relevant. For better or worse, organizations change continuously, often impacting your team members, requirements, and other needs of stakeholders.