So, what have we learned from this pandemic in our modern era of programme delivery?

Whilst many areas of our business world have felt a significant impact, those in the ERP and digital transformation sector have certainly managed to adapt and in many cases improve their efficiencies in delivering significant programmes remotely.

In many cases, having a cloud platform was a necessity for organisations both in the public and private sector to operate with a flexible, remote workforce. Hence prioritising a cloud ERP implementation in the stack of business transformation projects became the number one requirement.

So, let’s reflect back to before the pandemic. In many of the larger delivery programmes, most of the top tier consultancies operated with a significant on-site presence. This was often used to justify the significant costs and expenses. In fact, this was not only recommended by the consultancies, but it also became the norm for customers to demand this from all parties involved in the delivery. 

Add to this the misconception that ideas can only be fostered and shared effectively when people are in the same room and you can see why this often led to a sense of comfort while resources were on-site and a fear that if people were working remotely, no progress was being made. We all have seen this in the past, with requests to have resources onsite with no real business need other than to satisfy the perception that ‘if they’re not here, they’re not being productive’. 

In many larger delivery programmes, most of the top tier consultancies operated with a significant on-site presence”

Over the past year, we have all been forced to embrace new technologies – hands up if you had not used Zoom before March last year – and exploit its capabilities to the full. An impromptu meeting, called at short notice, with everyone able to see and share the same information on the screen in front of them is now taken for granted. Contrast that with attempting to corral and then squeeze twenty people into a ten-person meeting room (if you can find one available) and have everyone peer at a laptop screen or projector.

So, if we fast forward to where we are today, the argument that there is lack of productivity with remote working simply isn’t borne out by the evidence, as demonstrated by the significant number of programmes delivered throughout the pandemic. I’m sure many programmes have had their ‘moments’, however it has proven that with willingness, sponsorship and a good quality workforce, these programmes can be delivered with equally good efficiency and with much lower costs, both from a bottom line but also from an environmental perspective. This is factoring more and more in the customers’ psyche, ensuring efficiency in all aspects of delivery, including the often unnecessary travel associated with hundreds of resources all over the country like driving, flying, boarding a train just to sit at a desk on the customer’s site for eight hours a day, repeated five times a week!

There are great benefits for our employees too; there have been many studies to suggest that efficiency in delivery, when people have the flexibility to work remotely, increases significantly. The days of default requests of resources to be on-site every day of the week look to be a thing of the past. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the entire population to start working differently, we have all had to adapt and overcome obstacles with no real option other than to deliver remotely. Organisations have more trust and can see the evidence that shows that projects still get delivered when you are not on site… and often with a happier workforce!

As we (at time of going to print) approach the pivotal June date when we will be allowed to return to the office, there is a groundswell of opinion that remote working will remain a viable option for a large number of companies. Indeed, many companies have stated that working from home, either full-time or for a significant part of the working week, will become the norm. A recent BBC poll of 50 of the UK’s largest employers found that 43 of them do not plan to insist on staff returning to the office full-time. If remote working had caused detrimental impact on business, then I very much doubt that so many would hold this opinion.

Mandatory working from home has certainly not resulted in a reduction in the appetite of organisations to initiate ERP implementations, quite the opposite in fact, with the increase in requests for cloud data migration services over the last year showing that the move to cloud ERP is thriving, despite the inability to work in the traditional manner.

Working from home has certainly not resulted in a reduction in the appetite of organisations to initiate ERP implementations”

So, have we redefined programme delivery for the future? 

Not completely, although it does dispel some of the myths for expensive resources to be on the ground five days a week in order to be successful. There will always be aspects and phases of programme delivery where face-to-face contact is highly advantageous to provide efficient outcomes, but surely these can be defined from the start and planned accordingly? 

There will always be people who prefer to either work on-site and/or have their suppliers working on-site. Conversely, there will be those that embrace the completely remote working model having seen that succeed. In reality, I see the new normal being a hybrid approach, where the majority of on-site activity will take place only in the early stages of a project, where face-to-face interactions to build relationships and agree the key components and project phases will be advantageous.  

It’s certainly a positive thing to control these critical phases with in-person workshops and face-to-face sessions. The ‘quick question’ or the ‘not sure I fully understand’ scenario in these early project phases tends to play out better face-to-face, reading body language and having personable conversations to ensure customers and project stakeholders are completely comfortable with what the project is aiming to achieve. This is undoubtedly beneficial. A more remote working model following on when relationships are in place will likely become the industry accepted way that we deliver successful programmes. 

The key ingredients to any successful programme still override whether resources are needed on the ground or based remotely. These comprise of good customer sponsorship, clear governance and planning, a robust, achievable business case and a knowledgeable, dedicated team.