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The Digital Learning & Support Experience

  • Writer's pictureAshvini Sriharan

Lessons Learned from Implementing a Large Scale CSM Project in Higher Education Career Services

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Implementing a large-scale software Customer Service Management (CSM) system is a challenging and rewarding experience, especially when it’s your first one. As a Project Manager (PM) for the CareerConnect Job Portal Implementation (Phase Two) project for Humber College Career Services, I learned valuable lessons about how to ensure the success of such a project. Here are some of the lessons I learned:

Lesson 1: You will be forced to think outside of the box majority of the time

Trying to accommodate the needs of key stakeholders means going back and forth with the vendor to explore solutions that might not even exist. In this case, it is crucial to think outside of the box by conducting extensive research on reworking features or modules, exploring other tools or consulting with other institutions or Information Technology Services (ITS) within your own institution. It's essential to be resourceful and independent to identify the right solutions to meet the unique needs of each department. In order to stay on track with your project plan, you will also have to learn when to say “no” to stakeholder asks which might delay or impact the project as whole. This might be challenging when you are not the final decision maker but setting clear boundaries will ensure smooth sailing of the project.

Lesson 2: Your relationship with your Client Success Representative will determine the success of the project

Building a good relationship with the vendor is crucial in ensuring that both the vendor and the client are committed to the project's success. Maintaining open communication channels and booking regular check-in meetings can help ensure that both parties are involved and committed. It also makes the project a little more fun when you work together with the Client Success Representative to find solutions for any bumps in the road you will hit. It is also important to advocate for yourself and the client when the Client Success Representative is not meeting expectations with support. You can request a new representative or restate your expectations to the vendor.

Lesson 3: Be prepared to go all hands on deck for support after launch

It is important to distinguish support channels based on level of urgency and type of stakeholders - especially during the launch phase. It is also equally important to have trained staff ready to answer incoming inquiries. In the case of implementing a CSM in Career Services, we developed channels for staff, students, and employers. This allowed the inquiries to be categorized and prioritized for easy resolution or escalation. The complexity of the system also provided us with an opportunity to develop jobs for students to get involved in providing a certain level of system support. Clarifying expectations and building clear channels for support is critical to ensuring that stakeholders feel engaged and supported throughout the project.

Lesson 4: Building Trust is key

When making large scale changes to work flows which might have existed for a long period of time, you will be hit with resistance and concern. This is natural part of the process which you must mentally and communicatively prepare to address. The best way to do this, is to maintain transparency and update your stakeholders in a timely manner. This creates trust and hopefully will result in a more collaborative process. You can ensure stakeholders feel engaged and motivated throughout the project through reoccurring check-in meetings or a shared project plan. You want to ensure they feel supported and heard throughout the project even if you are not able to accommodate their needs.

Lesson 5: Be Prepared for Technical Issues or Delays in the Process

When implementing a large-scale software CSM system, unexpected technical issues or delays in the process can arise, such as data migration errors or system compatibility issues. To minimize their impact, it's crucial to have a contingency plan in place, conduct regular risk assessments and communicate any issues promptly and transparently. A tip is to develop messaging ahead of time which can be updated on the platform should there be any emergency technical situations. By being prepared and transparent, stakeholders remain engaged and informed throughout the process, ensuring that the project stays on track.

Lesson 6: You Cannot Please Everyone

Things sometimes will not go as expected and this is when to be prepared and reasonably optimistic as you deliver the news to your stakeholders. It is also important to understand that you will not be able to please everyone. This is again where you set boundaries and clear expectations. It is important to prioritize managing stress for both yourself and stakeholders.

Lesson 7: Burnout is inevitable if you don’t set boundaries

As a PM, it's easy to become overwhelmed with the project's scope and high stakes, leading to burnout and other mental health challenges. After a year and a half of dedicating myself to this CSM project, I had to make the difficult decision to step down to prioritize my mental health. Large scale projects can take a serious toll so it’s crucial to prioritize your wellness and recognize your limits to avoid burnout. It's also important to recognize when you need additional support, whether it's from your team or other resources, to help you manage the project effectively. By prioritizing your wellness and knowing when to ask for help, you can ensure that you are in the best position to lead the project to success.

In conclusion, successfully implementing a large-scale software CSM system in Higher Education Career Services is a rewarding but challenging experience. Working with so many moving parts will push you to your limits but setting clear expectations and boundaries will set you on your way to success. By implementing these lessons learned, you can ensure that your project is successful, and stakeholders are engaged, motivated, and supported throughout the process. Most importantly, make sure to be mindful of your wellbeing during the process. Happy implementing!

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