You can follow the progress of this unusual project virtually right here, in our live updates. Read on to discover the challenges the project team faced and the opportunities that arose from these unique circumstances.
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April 2020 – the decision
The launch project for the learning management system (LMS) SAP SuccessFactors was scheduled to start at Randstad in mid-April 2020, which ended up being in the first few weeks of the coronavirus lockdown. Yet instead of postponing the project indefinitely, Randstad opted to roll out the software remotely. It aimed to have a ready-to-use software solution within just a few months.
The conditions were perfect. As SuccessFactors is a cloud-based software package, no local computers were needed. On top of that, all staff were already equipped with laptops, cameras and microphones. This meant they could easily access the LMS from home. Travel and hotel costs were eliminated as a result – a good way of conserving financial resources during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, as no one had yet launched a system on an exclusively remote basis up to that point, both Randstad and the implementation partner initially had reservations:
- Could the deadlines be met and the LMS go live on schedule, despite the extraordinary circumstances?
- Was it possible to achieve the kind of collaborative teamwork that leans heavily on personal qualities, but through online meetings only?
May 2020 – the kick-off
The SuccessFactors project was launched at the start of May. However, the official kick-off was not organized as a face-to-face event, as is usually the case. Instead, following initial discussions and preparations, it was hosted on Google Hangouts with two different groups of participants:
Firstly, everyone who would be involved during the project got together – from IT and project management to the data protection officer and specialist personnel. The project plan and the milestones were presented and the implementation partner was introduced in this meeting.
The next steps were then discussed within the core team, consisting of the specialist personnel, project management and implementation partner. The team looked at questions such as: What takes priority? What dates need to be planned? Which people need to be consulted?
The actual implementation of the LMS project began just as it does during an on-site implementation – with the basic configuration of the test system. However, it quickly became apparent that the implementation concept that is usually applied under “normal” circumstances needed to be adapted to the exceptional conditions. Right from the start, the team had one particularly large challenge to tackle - how to complete the implementation on brief and on time, despite the numerous staff absences caused by reduced working hours, part-time work, maternity leave and the coronavirus lockdown.
Would you like to find out how the project team accomplished this task? In August, we’ll be publishing a new article here offering insights into the implementation process and communication in the project.
October 2020: Project routemap
Lockdown due to the coronavirus, reduced working hours, part-time work, maternity leave – this update explains how the conventional implementation concept was adapted to the extraordinary conditions surrounding the remote project. The aim was to get through the work package quickly and design the communication as effectively as possible to meet the deadline for the go-live.
Opening meetings instead of kick-off
Implementation projects generally begin with a one-day kick-off workshop at the customer’s premises. This is an opportunity for the project team members to get to know each other and receive an introduction to the route the project will follow and how it will be organized. This kind of event would have been grossly negligent in the times of the coronavirus lockdown, however, so it was held virtually – hence the remote project.
To this end, two one-hour opening meetings were conducted via Google Hangouts – the first solely with the core team, the second including everyone involved in the project. This ensured the issues were discussed in a target group-specific way, and where necessary could be addressed as expert groups. Even during the kick-off, the team was very optimistic, assuming it would be possible to conduct the project “normally” further down the line. However, these hopes were quickly dashed as the coronavirus pandemic continued to rage, meaning the rest of the process had to be adapted to the unusual circumstances.
Subject-specific sessions instead of a one-day workshop
While the implementation partner carries out the standard configuration of LMS SAP SuccessFactors on its own, the packages booked in addition to the basic package have to be discussed in detail with the relevant contacts in the customer’s IT and specialist departments. It takes close collaboration to ensure that the specific adjustments are also configured in the system to the full satisfaction of the customer. In the case of Randstad, these were first and foremost customer-specific reports, automatic system notifications, a role and authorizations concept, data protection, virtual classroom training courses and the integration of quizzes and tests.
Under normal circumstances, one- or two-day workshops are generally held on the different subjects. These would both provide customers with the necessary theoretical knowledge and offer an opportunity to take initial decisions about implementation. However, it would not have been helpful simply to hold these workshops in exactly the same way, only in a virtual format, as remote meetings demand a lot more concentration from participants. This case was also made more complicated due to participants working reduced hours or being on maternity leave, so they couldn’t set aside an entire working day for the meetings. A new concept was therefore needed.
As a result, the project team decided not to clarify the customer-specific requirements in one large meeting but in individual subject-specific sessions. The outcome was that the virtual meetings were significantly shorter (average duration about two to three hours), but were held more often.
“Quizzes and tests” provides a perfect example of how that worked in practice. Several short meetings with various goals were planned on this subject.
- The first session, with the primary contact at Randstad, involved recording the requirements and discussing the possibilities available in the system. These discussions looked at the various configuration options in the system in relation to the surveys, highlighted the system options when using the “Tests” function as an example and analyzed the customer’s actual-target processes.
- After this, several short consultations took place to coordinate the requirements and options in more detail and take care of some of the initial work. Randstad decided to use the test option and also already defined the configuration settings that were to be mapped in the LMS. To support the company in creating its test concept and meet the deadline for implementation in the system, a short-term coordination date was also set for the implementation partner to answer any remaining queries.
- In a final training course lasting around three hours, the staff of the implementing department learned how to put together tests themselves in the future. It goes without saying that the implementation partner will continue to be available to Randstad for any queries that may arise going forward.
This process has proved effective in the past. In addition to the positive effect on the mood of the team, this helped above all to achieve excellent coordination, high flexibility, and ultimately the rapid and resource-efficient implementation of the project. The team spirit also benefited, as the camera-on policy and regular meetings made it possible for team members to get to know each other quickly, leading to a sense of unity despite the physical distance.
Status conference for regular communication
In addition to the subject-specific meetings, there was a half-hour status conference every week via Google Hangouts to document project progress and discuss previous meetings and planned activities. All members of the project team took part in these regular meetings – from the project manager, specialist department and IT to the implementation partner. To ensure everyone always had access to all the documentation, documents were saved to Google Drive throughout the project. This made it possible for the project implementation to be target-oriented and efficient.