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The Magical Implementation – Preshow Audience

A magical and practical series of tips, tricks, and a real-world guide to implementing impactful end user technologies at scale
(Based on a Data Classification implementation but applicable to most large End User Impact implementations)

Preface

Dana McMullan is founder of Pasteboard Consulting, LLC specializing in End User Impact (EUI) Security Solutions with over 30 years of implementation and support experience.  He specializes in, and is credited for leading, multiple global security product implementations.  Dana is also a renowned magician who has toured with his own stage production and has performed in over 15 countries.

This blog series is intended to offer guidance and best practice advice for anyone responsible for implementing EUI applications as told through the mindset of a professional magician.

Installment 3: Preshow Audience

Preshow Purpose

As a profession magician knows, it is imperative to the success of the final production to host private preshow performances to allow a select number of trusted peers and insiders to preview the show to solicit frank feedback on how the program can be improved or refined for optimum effectiveness.

In the instance of a systems implementation project this can be viewed as the equivalent to a pilot program.

The primary purpose of a well-executed pilot is to solicit feedback from a select group comprising users from multiple departments and disciplines, who are aligned and representative of the entire target audience.  The execution of a pilot group exercise is to ensure the project caters to all organizational stakeholders, their own individual business processes, and any subtleties introduced from the perspective of the eventual broader audience.

Any systems impacting end users need to be designed, built, and tested to assure that the final product meets with, and is complimentary to, existing processes.  At worst it provides a mirror to project sponsors reflecting the true impact and any challenges that the technology may introduce to the daily workflow.

Picking The Audience

If left to their own devices, implementation initiatives can be prone to poor choices.

Every company has multiple departments each with their own processes and tools to support the day-to-day operations.  It is also worth noting that often it is the company’s corporate functions (vs line/operations areas) which are neglected in the planning and design of companywide technology implementations.  In many instances, it is these corporate functions that provide the most useful insight and guidance which contribute the most value in evaluating new capabilities.

By engaging all corporate functions early in the process, many problems can be avoided.  For example, designing a technology configuration specifically around just one of the organizations regional requirements. This may work well initially, but you may then find that privacy laws or regulatory requirements enforced within other regions are not being met, and that the configuration needs to be redesigned again. This example, among many others, is why the inclusion of corporate functions within the pilot phase is important, as they bring to the table other insights and perspectives which can be extremely valuable in evaluating new technologies.

Specifically, representation in the pilot group should cover as many corporate functions as possible including, but not limited to:

  • Legal
  • Compliance
  • Risk
  • Privacy
  • Audit
  • Human Resources
  • Finance

Also note that in large global organizations, there may be multiple such departments.  Therefore, it is advisable to include representation from each major location to ensure appropriate coverage.

From my own personal experience, while many times these departments are overlooked as pilot group participants, they often have their own specialized processes and technologies which should be factored into the evaluation. There is nothing worse than starting a production implementation only to find that the new technology introduces risk or disruption to one of these departments.  Had they been included in the pilot the risk or disruption could have been uncovered early enough in the product refinement to mitigate or avoid entirely.

Setting The Stage

Key to the success of any technology implementation is communication, communication, communication!

This usually is in the form of periodic meetings and touch base discussions, not only between the project managers and the pilot members but between and amongst the pilot members themselves. While the cadence of these discussions is often governed by the magnitude of the implementation, it is a good idea to start with at least bi-weekly meetings.

These meeting provide a forum for issues and observations to be shared and discussed among the group.  It is not uncommon for an issue to have multiple resolution paths, but it is often through these group discussions that the drive the best solutions since all stakeholders have opportunity to weigh in and opine on the options available.

In administering a pilot, it is important to keep everyone engaged and actively participating.  If members of the group feel that the pilot discussions are not worth their time, they may disengage thus missing the opportunity to have their voice heard or their issues raised and resolved.

Managing Your Audience

A couple of key meeting “tricks” that I have traditionally used and found to be highly effective include:

  • Ask that if a key departmental representative is not available to attend that they endeavor to send a substitute in their place.
  • Greet each participant by name as they join the discussion either in person or via audio/video.
  • Maintain and take a roll call at the beginning of each meeting. This allows you to assemble the participant list for the meeting notes. My suggestion is also that the meeting notes reflect the full list of invitees with indication of their participation… or not.  (Yes, it is a little bit of a shame tactic but if someone knows they will be shown as MIA, they may be more inclined to participate).
  • Keep the meetings as brief and direct as possible to give time back at the end if possible.
  • Don’t forget that everyone is human and a little lightness or humor can go a long way!
  • Lastly, to close out each meeting use your roll call to go “around the room” to ask each participant individually if they have anything to say or ask. It is amazing how attentive attendees are if they know that they will be eventually called upon.  This helps maintain their focus on the discussion especially when attending remotely.
  • Also note that, when possible, giving back time to participants by closing meetings early is appreciated.

Summary

While everyone’s management style is different, effective meeting management and communications are paramount to any large project’s success.

Next Installment In The Series:
  • It Pays to Advertise
Previous installments

Dana can be contacted at Dana@pasteboardconsulting.com

©2022 Pasteboard Consulting, LLC, written for Fortra

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Dana McMullan is founder of Pasteboard Consulting, LLC specializing in End User Impact (EUI) Security Solutions with over 30 years of implementation and support experience. He also a renown magician who has toured with his own stage production and has performed in over 15 countries.

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