Tactical Advice

Project Champion Agreement

The key to a successful IT project is ensuring that the business purpose is clear.
This story appears in the November 2006 issue of BizTech Magazine.

A Project Champion Agreement serves as a guide for those considering proposing an information technology project. My team uses this agreement at Affinity Health Systems; it’s intended to help educate people on what’s required to lead an IT project. It is important to read this to understand the commitment you are making and the process as well.

Basic Principles

IT projects are really process improvement projects that use IT as an enabler. [INSERT YOUR COMPANY NAME] believes that these projects are most successful when led by a business leader who will be accountable for achieving the expected benefits.

Terms:

  • Project champion: The IT individual who sponsors the project.
  • Business owner: The individual or group for whom the IT project serves.
  • Steering committee: The people in your organization who evaluate, determine and prioritize IT projects.

Understanding the Expected Benefits (Step 1)

The first step to champion a project is to prepare an overview of your proposal and the project’s expected benefits. These benefits are directly related to the goals of the [INSERT YOUR COMPANY NAME] strategic plan, and will be given the highest priority. Success metrics should be established to measure the benefits, including a baseline measurement (where we are today). When submitting a project champion agreement you should attach documentation of the expected benefits and the success metrics.

When you submit a Project Champion Agreement you are agreeing to the following:

  • Achieving the Expected Benefits
    Implementing new technology will not achieve those benefits alone. Good management is the key to success.  This is the project champion’s role.  The information system must include numerous changes, such as process changes, policy changes, staffing changes and training and cultural changes. Because these aren’t technical in nature, the project champion is ultimately responsible to see these changes through in a way that results in the expected benefits. Process changes also require communication with all interested parties and the inclusion of key stakeholders in the decision-making and change management processes.
  • Tracking Return
    The project champion must track the established success metrics to determine the success of the effort. After the project has been completed and the benefits realized, the project champion will return to the IT Steering Committee to report on the expected versus realized benefits.
  • Having Fun
    I realize that IS makes me sign this because they want me to fully understand what is involved in such an endeavor, and they wish to be partners in the successful implementation. IS also loves computers and new computer projects, and I promise to enjoy the experience and have fun while accomplishing what's outlined above.

Developing the Business Case (Step 2)

If the idea is in alignment with company priorities, the Business Champion will be asked to develop a more complete business plan with the assistance of a company partner. Developing a business case is a significant investment in time, but is an important part of the project.

IS will assign someone to guide the project champion through the analytical phase of the project. Your IS partner is primarily a consultant. Your responsibility, as project champion, is to prepare the analysis to be presented to the IT Steering Committee. The analysis preparation activities will vary, based upon the project’s size and whether a new acquisition is required.

Your IS partner will guide you through the various aspects of the analysis, including:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Technical assessment
  • Risk assessment
  • Success metric refinement (measurements?)
  • Financial plan (capital, operating and ROI)
  • Human resource analysis
  • Work plan
  • You also may be asked to collect documentation, specifications and/or conduct a system selection process using IS methodology.

Your IS partner will guide you through the appropriate steps for your project. Software selections should only start once the expected benefits are identified and the features and functions required to achieve those benefits are documented.
The project champion will be expected to conduct the necessary due diligence, including demonstrations, reference checks and documentation reviews to validate the vendor’s claims. Of these, the documentation review is the most critical because most IS contracts disclaim anything shown in a demo and rely solely on the documentation as the basis for defining the system.

IS Responsibilities

[INSERT COMPANY NAME] Information Systems (IS) will support the technical aspects of the project, including:

  • Contract negotiations
  • Hardware configuration
  • Data center hardware installation
  • Server software installation
  • Network cabling and equipment

By submitting a Project Champion Agreement, you are indicating that you understand your responsibilities, including:

  • identifying the expected benefits of the project and the metrics that will be used to measure the success of the effort;
  • performing the necessary due diligence (including reading the system documentation) to make sure the proposed solution has the features and functions necessary to achieve the business objectives;
  • managing the process changes in a way to ensure that the expected benefits are realized; the transition occurs in a way that does not interrupt operations; and that proper plans are put in place to address system downtimes;
  • communicating the changes taking place and including key stakeholders in the decision-making process; and
  • reporting back to the IT Steering Committee and other key stakeholders the results of the initiative. 
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