The dog needs a walk, the kids are hungry, and your boss is calling—this is our 'new normal.' As we navigate new and challenging environments, our ways of working and how we conduct business need to be examined under the lens of these shifting circumstances. While working remotely is not new for some of us—you may have had jobs, projects, or days that allowed you to complete your work outside of the office—one of the biggest disruptions to Anaplan development has been the abrupt shift to fully remote project implementations. There are many benefits, of course, such as increased work-life balance, less T&E/overhead expenses, and schedule flexibility, but it is also crucial to think about the components of project delivery that could be negatively impacted and prepare for our new working environment. As we continue to evolve into these new ways of working, here are some considerations and recommendations that can ensure no negative impact on successful Anaplan project delivery.
Aim to keep your work routine as normal, defined, and structured as possible, but be accepting of when it is not. It is OK if your dog barks during a presentation or you need to step away to drop the kids off at summer camp. We all must be understanding of the fact that this is part of our new normal and comes with working from home during a pandemic. With that in mind, find the right elements to help stay in a client-facing, office-going mentality.
Wake up at the same time every day, dress in business casual clothes, and allow yourself 30 minutes of "me time" before starting work so you can clear your slate of personal tasks and responsibilities before attacking the day’s work tasks. While it sounds simple, these steps help trick your brain into staying in a ‘business’ mindset.
Structure your day with recurring project meetings, working sessions, and team connect points. Without the ability to work together in person, calendars are brimmed with meetings that would have been a quick conversation in the office. Block time on your own calendar for getting tasks done so you do not get in the churn of bouncing from meeting to meeting at the expense of your own productivity. It's OK to schedule meetings for less than 30 minutes to be respectful of each other’s time.
Remove unneeded distractions from your working environment, and make sure you create a productive workplace by having needed things such as proper lighting, extra monitors, and notepads.
The Tech Success Checklist
Ensure proper access to dependent technologies such as VPNs, data sources, and file-sharing software. Document and plan for potential issues such as weekend or evening access restrictions, scheduled downtimes, and other considerations that come with being away from the office.
Have multiple channels for communication, including chat, email, and text or phone calls. If your team is distributed across time zones, it’s important todefine what the appropriate method of communication is for different types of requests so team members do not infringe on each other’s personal time or comfortability.
Encourage team members to turn on their video when doing virtual meetings. It promotes meeting engagement, productivity, and team connection.
Maintain an organized, central file-sharing tool that allows everyone to collaborate and edit files. Keep project management documentation central so everyone can access and track progress.
Find a tool that allows whiteboarding during meetings. It is an essential facilitation tool to communicate ideas and collaborate on solutioning in real-time.
Anaplan Project Components to Focus On
Client enablement is a key aspect of ensuring a long-term, healthy planning tool. Sitting shoulder to shoulder during the implementation process is invaluable to training and building the skills of those who are ramping up and will ultimately manage the application. Working remotely makes it even more tempting to focus simply on delivery, but we shouldn’t put enablement on the backburner. Teaching the ‘why’ is the most effective enablement technique, and the following can help ease the process and encourageclient adoption as we communicate virtually:
Schedule earlier and frequent knowledge-sharing sessions.
Collaborate as a broader team through the upfront model design phase.
Break down complex modeling with discussions about how you approached the problem.
Ask the learners to teach concepts back to you.
User Acceptance Testing requires a longer runway of preparation and should be allocated additional time to execute when done virtually. Here are three tips that have helped ensure that remote testing is successful:
Identify testing participants and block calendars earlier in the project to make sure they have the time to devote during the testing phase.
Write test scripts that are precise and require a more detailed response from the end-user as pass/fail is not enough feedback and can enable a ‘check the box’ mentality for testers.
Prepare virtual testing environments with multiple channels for real-time communication and feedback. Actively engage end-users throughout testing to validate their participation.
Managing the change of a new tool is challenging enough when an organization is not scrambling to react to global environmental changes. Everyone is navigating a disrupted role with more on their plate, so here are a few areas of your change strategy to accentuate:
Start at the top. Maintain executive engagement and support throughout the project by making sure they attend project status and steering-committee meetings. Leverage their position of influence to communicate the strategic value of the project to the rest of the organization.
Train and train again. Learning new technologies and processes can be intimidating and is often met with angst and resistance. Put together an effective virtual training plan that includes hard deliverables, recorded trainings or demos, and open office hours for ad hoc questions. In some cases, one-on-one trainings may be required. Every person learns differently, so make sure you understand your user group and plan accordingly.
Don’t stop improving. As you shift processes to align with industry benchmarks and leading practices, do not discount the voice of your own people. To win the trust and buy-in of your users, ask for and be willing to hear their feedback and enact the change that will make their lives easier. Anaplan has the flexibility that enables quick iterations to adapt to the needs of end-users that will help gain organizational support at every level.
The impact of the current crisis and the lessons learned will have a lasting effect on our professional lives. With the right attitude, proactive preparation, and processes in place, we can realize the benefits that come with these changes with minimal impact on results.
So, let the dog out in the backyard, cut up some fruit for the kids, and call back your boss with the good news of project successes, because you are thriving in the ‘new normal’!
Kevin Schultz, Peloton Consulting GroupKevin Schultz is a manager and solution architect for Peloton Consulting Group with over eight years of process and technology consulting experience. Based out of Chicago, he is responsible for working collaboratively with his clients to address their toughest business problems, with deep expertise in sales and finance use cases across several industry verticals.