Solution ownership by the customer is the ultimate goal of a software implementation project. It is, however, far easier said than done. Solution ownership is not something that can be created through a mandate from your project sponsorship, it needs to happen organically (with some mechanical guidance and planning of course) but like anything that you expect to grow, customer ownership of a solution is something that needs care and attention, just like any other aspects of your project.
Nothing will breed contempt for a solution than being road-blocked (either self-imposed or because of a system defect). When your customer is unable to perform functions that are advertised in the system it can lead to a negative perception and an overall feeling of apathy towards the system. This is the enemy of solution ownership and can be mitigated by ensuring that you and your team are being responsive to your customer’s questions, inquiries and issues. Your system may not be perfect, and most customers expect there to be some scratches in the paint, but your team being quick and responsive is a great way to overshadow those small defects that may otherwise grow into perceived major headaches that will drive a wedge between your customer taking ownership of the solution.
Teach, Don’t Give
All too often, we as consultants are eager to provide or give solutions to the customer rather than ensuring the customer can be self-sufficient (especially those of us paid by the hour!). While this is easier for all initially, when it comes time for the project team to eventually back away from the project, it can leave your customer in a bit of a void where they are unable to be as independent as they should be to really take control of the solution you’ve implemented for them. Take every opportunity you can (minding your scope, schedule and budget) to be teachers before do-ers. This will serve two purposes – one: you are teaching your customer how to use the system on a deeper level and forcing them to think about what they are doing and how they are doing it; two: you are lightening the “future” load on your project team as you get closer to going live – panic tends to set in the closer you get to the end of the project where customers realize they need to run the solution themselves without anyone looking over their shoulder to make sure they are doing it correctly. This can often be painful at first, but keeping the long game in mind, your future self will thank you for this as it will be infinitely easier as you get in the thick of testing and close to cut-over.
Solution ownership is often an undervalued component of your project plan and it usually does not get the respect it deserves. By setting the tone early on in your project and getting buy-in from your project sponsor and your project team to take every opportunity to establish solution ownership, you will not only be making sure that your project runs healthy by way of minimizing the churn on resources to do continued hand-holding, but you’re also ensuring for a smooth transition once the system goes live and your customer is able to successfully run on their own with the new solution.