Both project managers and owners of HR companies will tell you that a major data conversion is not painless. In fact, many large scale software implementations fail, causing millions of dollars in losses and upset clients and employees.
“Implementations, by nature, are tough,” says TempWorks Director of Project Management, Taylor Mack. “That's not something we hide.”
Yet Mack successfully guides more than a dozen staffing companies through such conversions, or implementations, each month, a track record that sets customers at ease – even ones that haven't updated their technology in 25 years. How does she do it?
It's all about organization. Mack's whiteboard is a thing of beauty: at a whopping eight feet long by four feet tall, it dwarfs the other whiteboards in the office. Of course, being an employee of a software company, she also uses internal systems to manage customers' schedules. But gazing at the whiteboard, one gets a sense of scale.
“Whether it’s an upgrade or they’re new to TempWorks, they all come through project management,” she says. “It's constant communication.”
Mack herself was instrumental in creating structured timelines for all TempWorks implementations and upgrades. What does this entail? Here's the simplified version: 1) handoff of a standard set of deliverables, 2) creation of project timeline, 3) training on new software, 4) parallel testing of new and old databases, and 5) going live on the new software.
“The fact that all the customers are getting the same info... means they’re carried out in a more efficient manner,” says Melanie Kramer, vice president of implementation, who has been with the company for 12 years.
At the same time, the project management team was thoughtful about which parts of the process should be standardized (information, expectations, timelines) and which areas should not be regimented or scripted (communication, customizations). This is one of the areas where the TempWorks Project Management team excels.
“We have such a wide range of clients, all with varying needs,” says Mack. “So it’s being able to read what style of project management works for them. We make an effort to create an environment that’s both professional and personal.”
In another style of project management, a client might have five implementers and multiple PM's, one for each software product. TempWorks has about nine products in its full suite – but just one devoted implementer and one PM.
“We’re completely committed to the customer,” says Mack. “We do whatever it takes. But we don’t force them into a conversion they’re not prepared for.”
Another area that is anything but cookie cutter is TempWorks' focus on customizing front-and-back-office software out-of-the-box. The fact that upper management, from Account Managers to Support Supervisors, have been with the company for more than a decade, means that someone is probably already familiar with those customizations.
MEMCO of Dallas/Ft. Worth, a staffing company that went live with TempWorks software in June of this year, provides a good example of how project management can adapt to changing conditions. Before going live, Mack encouraged the company to wait just a few more weeks to ensure the transfer would go smoothly. In retrospect, Branch Manager Casey Wenzel is happy to have waited.
“Taylor was very pleasant to work with,” says Wenzel. “She was always there, always available. She did an excellent job at coordinating with the implementation and support teams, making sure everybody got to where they needed to be.”
Wenzel calls the process “tough,” partially due to their “messy data,” but couldn't be happier about the way project management, including Mack, handled their conversion with attention to detail and customer service.
“Taylor went to bat for us. She changed the game plan and we were able to keep the data that we had input into the parallel database, which I understand is atypical,” he said.
As it turns out, atypical is part of the everyday vocabulary of the Project Management team, which quadrupled in size this year, as well as Implementation, which doubled.
It's about keeping calm and carrying on implementing software.