A Print MIS transition is like a battlefield of sorts. For the person leading the transition it is a time of scrutiny, chaos, incredible intensity and unexpected disruptions. It is, without a doubt, one of the most complex and stress generating events you can face. While it is incredibly rewarding to get through it, you usually don’t come out of it unscathed.
To the person leading the implementation, all eyes are on you. The leadership above you is watching you like a hawk and the team below you is perfecting the art of the “water cooler” conversations as they critique the Print MIS moves you are making. Quite frankly, the disruption of a Print MIS implementation, no matter how perfectly it goes (and none of them go perfectly by the way), lends itself beautifully to increasing your blood pressure and making you want to buy a one-way ticket to ‘nobody can find me here’ island. So, how do you see it through this incredibly challenging time and come out as a functioning and not bitter human being?
1) Go to User Conferences Before you Implement
One of the best things you can do is go to a user conference of the software you purchased before you start your implementation. This isn’t so much about going to classes to learn things about the technology. While that is usually beneficial, it isn’t as meaningful before you’re live. However, what is incredibly meaningful and worth every penny of the cost of the trip is meeting peers who have gone through the journey you are about to embark on. The networking is everything. Don’t be shy, introduce yourself to people, join the user groups and start asking questions. “What went wrong?”, “What would you do differently?”, “What was easier than you thought?” This accomplishes two things: first, it gives you a realistic perspective of what it takes to get the technology implemented. Secondly, it gives you a stack of business cards that you can have handy. It is always so much easier to not re-invent the wheel. When you get stuck on things, you can always call the vendor but sometimes the vendor can’t help you with ‘real-life’ scenarios that they haven’t factored in to their technology. Folks that have implemented prior to you are innovators. Trust me, there is at least one thing they have done to be innovative with the technology. So long as you are not a direct competitor, they love to share what they have learned. Don’t be afraid to ask for ideas and help from these people that have gone before you.
2) Give yourself some breathing room to focus on the MIS transition
You need to re-evaluate your work schedule. A Print MIS transition is a heavy undertaking with a tremendous time commitment. I don’t know most of you reading this, but I could make a fairly educated guess that you are already flat out at least 40 hours a week. You need to put a lot of hours a week into the Print MIS transition (even if you have an internal team assigned, you are leading the team and plan). My suggestion on how to do this is to seriously find a way to block off one day a week to not be in the office. That’s right – one day…EACH WEEK. If you can’t find out how to carve out 8 hours a week, you need to be very honest with yourself about your ability to get this done on your own. The reason I suggest not being in the office is that to be truly focused, you can’t be distracted by the day-to-day interruptions that will happen. Even if you are sitting in your office with the door closed. Also, a Print MIS implementation requires you to ‘think outside the box’ and let the creative juices flow. Sitting at home with the music on and the coffee pot full can really aid this. So can sitting with your laptop at your favorite coffee shop. I know most people feel guilty about not working in ‘an office’, but trust me, some of the best work that you can do will be outside of your normal work environment.
3) Build your support network
Outside of industry peers, you really need to build yourself a support network to help you through. That may seem corny but it is important. These are the ‘ventees’, the people you can vent your frustrations to through the transition, especially the 3-4 week go live craziness. These are the folks that can know that you are on the brink of tears (even the guys!) or at risk of firing just about anyone because they looked at you funny. These are the ones that can also keep you motivated to keep going. They can also help you to keep things in perspective ‘will this really matter a year from now?’ These are your trusted advisors, your closest ‘business’ friends and your mentors.
4) For actual go-live, warn your ‘outside of work’ life
The initial week to 10 days of go-live can be a round-the clock adventure, especially if you are running a 24/7 operation. Even if your facility runs 8-5, your days will be long and intense. If you have living beings that rely on you for their general existence (kids, pets, elderly parents), make sure your backups are engaged and warned so they can help you and take some of the pressure off. As an example, warning your spouse that it’s going to be really tough for you to cook dinner and get the kids off to soccer practice that week, can help everyone be prepared and not be scrambling. It can also really help you to know things are covered on the home-front.
5) Block out the noise
One of the hardest things to do is to block out the noise and sideline critiquing that happens during a transition. The hardest thing to do is not take it personally. However, you have to find a way to do that. Just remember, it is always easiest to stand on the sidelines and complain rather than to jump in to the middle and figure out the problem or come forward with a solution. People love to complain about politics and some of the biggest complainers are the ones that never vote. However, why you are in your position is you are well equipped to do this. You just have to wear your thickest skin during the transition. If you go in to the implementation expecting criticism from all angles and directions, then it will be easier to take when it happen and easier to block out.
Embarking on a Print MIS transition is a very exciting time for your company. It is going to give you an entirely new platform from which to grow your business and move it in to the future. However, for you, the person leading the charge, it is a complex and at times, all-consuming journey. It is important to consciously determine how you are going to make sure YOU have the resources you need to see it through. You are in fact, the most important key to the Print MIS success story in your organization.