Post Implementation Support Part 3 – “Handling the Known Unknowns”

March 20, 2017

It was former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who notably coined the expression “known knowns…known unknowns…[and] unknown unknowns…” This was quite a mouthful at the time and it was not an easy concept to follow. Since then, this perspective has gained traction across industries – including Procurement – acting as a roadmap that we can follow when mitigating risks.

On one end of the spectrum, we know the risk of the known knowns can be handled with appropriate planning and use of repeatable, scalable processes. On the other end, the unknown unknowns are our variable risk – our “wild child” that we can’t predict. Frankly, we don’t know what we don’t know and we handle those situations case-by-case whenever they pop up.

Right in the middle, are the known unknowns – issues we know will come. We may not know how broad they will be or when they will arrive but just like winter, they are coming.

When looking through a Post Implementation lens, known unknowns fall into a few categories for consideration:

• Confusion and Inconsistency: This leads to questions like “why did we change and why is this happening now.” It also creates the mentality of “this will be great/awful because it will now do…”
• Frustration and Anxiety: When employees become anxious and frustrated, there is often a loss of productivity as they try to adapt to the changes.
• Shortcuts and Workarounds: Even when adapting, employees may begin to create workarounds for the new process that bring them closer to what they were doing before. Those workarounds lead straight to the incomplete and/or slow user adoption of the new system/process. Somehow, the workarounds become the process and there is no perceived need to adopt the new system in its entirety.

Surprised? No. We have all been there in one way or another. We don’t want to be like Oliver Twist, continuously saying, “please sir, I want some more.” So where does the opportunity lie in getting ahead of these known unknowns? It lies primarily with those seeking changes and requesting budgets.

Five elements to consider to get ahead of the known unknowns:

1. Request that the full cycle of the project is included in the budget request. Do not only ask for the initial project. Make the request with the full scope of the project in mind.
2. Consider the training cycle. Making sure you train completely and often is critical to minimizing workarounds, inconsistency, and confusion.
3. Review the capacity of the current staff responsible for managing and working with the updated system. Do they have room to take on these changes?
4. Considering individual career paths, the growth of the team and possible turnover will ensure these changes can be folded into the current team. It will also boost success, and provide new opportunities.
5. Be sure to update internal company policies. For example, paid time off could now mean new delegation for the members of the team in order to accommodate any new roles and responsibilities.

Stepping into the opportunities on the front end and keeping them on the radar as you move past the implementation will ensure you maximize the positive impacts that will come.

These impacts are tangible, meaningful and repeatable. When obtaining the appropriate long term budget, there is no need to worry about dipping into the coffers again and/or getting denied. As you ensure proper, complete and ongoing training, you create adoption that is smooth and complete, minimizing work arounds and setting the plate for proper usage. By keeping internal policies updated with the details for the new components, the employees’ capacity is expanded to absorb the changes easily and without frustration.

How are those opportunities best enabled to optimize impact?

• Permanent Help Desk: Remove the need to address tactical questions and issues from the operational team. Lean on others to support you after the implementation and for the years ahead.
• Upgrade Support: Consider leveraging outside experts to handle upgrade support through release testing of the new small fixes, regression testing of the larger versions and end-to-end testing. This will ensure that your process remains smooth and consistent.
• Supplier Onboarding: Seek appropriate support to onboard new suppliers. That same support could further maintain your current supplier population including catalog management/upkeep as well as vendor support. Doing so will minimize the loss of productivity felt on the workday because the team won’t be sidetracked to address these one-offs.
• Continual Training: Setting a scheduled, recurring new user training can help keep the team and others fresh while also leading to improved adoption. Trainings on upgrades, tips and tricks and supplier enablement can build the depth and breadth of knowledge while minimizing the workarounds, confusion and frustration.
• Policy Updates: Setting aside the time to update internal policies and job descriptions is often left to the backburner but it is often the keystone to preventing inconsistency and incomplete adoption. It also assures proper usage and swift integration.

When planning for the long term, support and education can help pave clear, clean and complete adoption for any changes made. It is careful consideration of those known unknowns and how to best offset their accompanying risks that can make or break the final outcome.

Kelly Carpenter
Client Service Manager
The Shelby Group