Right until mid-March 2020, our implementation consultants were living out of a suitcase travelling the length and breadth of the country implementing Folio. There were early morning flights, hire cars and full days at a client’s office in a conference room, hitting the whiteboard and the keyboard. Well, the pandemic has changed all that and has most likely changed the way we will implement Folio forever.
Folio is a nifty software tool built by us 6 years ago to enable organisations to manage contracts, risks, incidents, compliance, audits and pretty much any other governance requirement. It is a single software tool that transforms the risk and governance function in an Organisation from a messy mix of spreadsheets and old software. Over the years it has acquired a steady following because it is easy to use, has easily configurable workflows and therefore is really quick to get off the ground. Folio has always included an implementation consulting service to help Organisations hit the ground running. There were typically at least 2 client visits (more than one day at a time), one to enable the initial set up process for Folio and the second to train administrators, end users and managers.
Pandemics change everything
The pandemic has meant that our implementation team has had to examine every aspect of our implementation process and tweak them to make them effective in an online world. Here is what we learnt:
The cornerstone of Folio’s success are the relationships we build with our clients. We believe that we are working with our clients in a partnership where Folio makes them more efficient and effective and they give us feedback on tweaks, changes and improvements that help make Folio even better.
The problem is that while meeting face to face helps foster stronger relationships; in pandemic country, this is not possible!
Prior to COVID, we would hold most of our initial meetings in person at client’s offices/workplaces. This was a great way to build working relationships, get to know the client, demonstrate Folio as well as actively work together.
Ian Hunter - Folio Health Lead
We realised though that remote implementations are actually way more personal than in person implementations. Quite often all parties in the implementation are inviting each other into their home offices, living rooms and dining rooms. The pleasant sound of a crying baby or the background hum of kids on school holidays are par for the course now and just make everything a bit more real. As a team, we have embraced this change and find that if we establish good communication channels with the client, we can still build very solid and lasting relationships.
Practically this may mean video call based meetings where others can easily be added in and can work collaboratively. We save a significant amount of time by not having to travel to a client location and this time is put to more productive use through focused catch-up calls and workshops.
Shorter High Intensity Sessions
Pre-COVID-19 an implementation consulting session would be either a full day or a half day at a client’s offices. This meant clients having to take one or more team members out of the business loop for that period of time.
Online sessions require a different level of focus and it is hard to do long sittings. We have now shifted short high intensity sessions no more than two hours at a time. This means that team members are not occupied for the whole day and can return to their work after the session. A side benefit of these online sessions especially the training sessions for managers and end users is that they can be recorded and distributed for future reference or for those who could not make the live session.
Clients with offices spread across the country find online training especially effective as they do not have to fly their team or our implementation team anywhere.
Online training for key executives and end users will become more commonplace.
Kim Wilson - Co-Founder Kwela Solutions
We follow an agile implementation methodology and the tools we have both within Folio and other third party tools support this approach.
- We have template libraries that provide base templates and workflows to use as a starting point.
- We enable you to build a template and workflow in a Folio sandbox and when it is just right to swap it over to production with minimal fuss.
- We support the import of your existing data through our import routines and attachments through our attachment uploader, so you are able to quickly load data extracted from an outdated software system or spreadsheets and move them to Folio.
- We enable you to conduct quick User Acceptance Testing with key members of your team and then go live to a much wider audience.
- We use a collaborative project management tool for enterprise implementations where you have visibility of the different components of the project.
- We equip you with the skills to make configuration changes in Folio, so that there is no need to engage us to set up a new template, workflow or report, you can do this yourselves.
Engagement, Ownership & Motivation
The fact of the matter is, there needs to be engagement, ownership and motivation from your side to make the implementation work. If there are competing and more important priorities, the project will fail. If there isn’t adequate support for the project from the leadership team, the project will suffer. If the right people don’t make the decisions that they need to in a timely fashion, the project’s momentum will wane. But these are all things that apply as much to implementations in the old world as they do to implementations in the new one.
So here are our top tips for implementation success
Given that you have 2 hour high intensity sessions, being prepared is important. Before your online implementation, set yourself up as a user in Folio, prepare your questions for the implementation team, generally get yourself ready for the ‘workout’ so that no time is wasted!
Focus on the key priorities
Look for the key things that your Organisation needs to implement first and have a steely focus on them. Don’t get distracted by the less important items.
Communication, communication, communication
Regular catch-ups are vital to ensure that any changes are communicated quickly. This is especially important in COVID-19 as workforces have undergone changes which will definitely impact your project.
Be engaged and motivated
Take ownership of the project, this ensures that the pace of implementation is never lost.
Online Meeting Etiquette
You would still observe face to face meeting etiquette such as switching off your phone or turning them to silent in an online world. New and positive behaviours have also emerged like putting yourself on mute and unmuting when you ask a question. This is very helpful to ensure quality sound through an implementation session.
While you don’t have control over the quality of the internet, this has been one of the biggest blockers for many online implementations. If you are Working from Home, it is well worth having a mobile broadband backup if you are using your home internet.
Back to the Future
What does the future hold? ‘Who knows’ is the best answer to this question! It does look like the future probably holds a balance between online and face to face. A bulk of the implementation would be done online and important training sessions may return to being face to face. But we are sure these ideas will evolve given the predicted high travel costs and shrinking meeting room spaces.
Let us know what you think? What has worked for you doing projects remotely and what hasn’t and what do you think the future holds.