No one way…balancing “being different” with best practices

At some point while managing every project, I end up having a conversation with the customer about how different they are from their competitors. Each organization can list a dozen reasons about why and how they are different. This is often used as an excuse for why something can’t or shouldn’t be done a certain way. The reality of it is that organizations within the same industry are more alike than they are different. Yes, there are nuances and competitive advantages that allows them all to exist in the industry, but core business challenges and opportunities are similiar.

I recently had a couple of conversations that were the epitome of this situation. On one hand, we were talking about extensive, semi-permanent changes that were required in order for the system to be “fully accepted and utilized by the stakeholders.” I approached these conversations from the standpoint of acknowledging we would probably move ahead with doing the changes but wanted to ensure that those making the decision understood what purposes those elements served and what potential opportunities were being lost by moving forward. Inevitably, we got to the end of the conversations and I was asked how other organizations had handled this same problem. In all cases, I had to explain that the majority of our customers took the exact opposite approach.

The large-scale data integration projects I manage come with a significant amount of organizational change required to make them truly successful. As a result, the project manager sits at the heart of the internal conflict of the organization between “the way it has always been done” and “industry best practices and opportunity for the future.” The role of the project manager is to educate and recommend, but ultimately, execute. Sometimes that means implementing in the best way for the organization with the understanding that as the system becomes embedded in organizational culture, some of the initial implementation will need to be unraveled.