Get them on board: Users not Committed to the Project
Get them on board: Users not Committed to the Project
by RUTH THOMAS - Jan 04,2016

Imagine a legacy system. The people supporting it now are the people who developed the same system 6 years ago. The user has signed a contract with a vendor to rewrite the old system. How will the current support staff react?

There is a tendency to fall into a rhythm with your work. Someone who has supported the same system for years knows exactly where to go to fix issues. If the code needs to be changed, the analyst knows where to make the change. The support staff feel a sense of ownership for that system. They share a camaraderie working together towards a common goal of keep it running.

Now the user has decided to replace the system with something new. The support staff are to be trained on the new system, but the system will be developed by the systems integrator. How will the support staff respond?

This depends. If there is the chance to learn new technology, the people who are eager to learn something new will be onboard as it lets them polish their credentials in the ever-changing IT market. But, there could be one person who is hostile to the incoming system and all the consultants who are moving into the office to work on the new system. This person is typically a developer who has carved out position of some authority within the staff.


Removing the Obstacle

Such a person can poison the well. Because she is at the crossroads of everything that passes through that department, she has considerable influence in the success or failure of the project. If the leadership (i.e. project manager) is weak, this person can interfere with the project. For example she can reassign work within the department thus conflicting with the vendor’s schedule when the project requires input from the legacy system, as in conversion issues.

What to do in this situation? This is a difficult situation if the person who is the client is also a departmental or project manager who does not know how to run a project. At one end there is lack of cooperation; at the other someone is lost in the haze.

There is a way to go around the obstacles. The departmental manager probably did not have budget authority to pay for the new project. The director would have done that. Talk to the director. Maybe the director will step up to oversight of the project. If he is distracted by more pressing concerns, turn to the key users who can put pressure on the director to keep the project on track. Either the director will have an interest in what could be a low-priority issue for him on not. The situation could fester. The integrator can work with the manager to assign new tasks to the person who has upended the department.

There are some ideas of how to address the threat to the project from users who are not committed or hostile.

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