The importance of good functional management
Launching a new application is always a celebration for the project team. But the success of the application is partly determined after the implementation. During this follow-up, the role of the functional manager is an important one. But how do you take on this role?
Having visited a lot of organizations as a consultant, I learned the following: whether you achieve your goal is equally determined by the tool’s set-up and the implementation’s follow-up. An example: an IT department purchases a tool with a self-service portal to improve customer satisfaction. But due to lack of time the implementation of the portal is postponed to phase 2 – which will never start. Or all kinds of data is neatly registered, but is never used to create the important reports. In both cases, the original goals are not achieved due to lack of attention for the implementation’s follow-up.
I currently work two days a week as a functional manager at a semi-public organization. Here I realized that the functional manager can play an important role in the application’s success after the implementation. Functional management is often a small role of one employee – and there is enough time to fulfill that role. However, priorities change after going live and functional management disappears in the background. Appointing a dedicated functional manager can ensure that follow-up plans actually happen, helping you get the best possible value out of your purchased tool.
A functional manager's core tasks
The most important task of a functional manager is making sure the application is used to its full potential. As opposed to the technical and application manager, who are in IT, the functional manager does not apply technical changes. He does however apply non-technical changes. These can be changes to default settings, filling search lists and creating emails. The functional manager also bridges the gap between the business and IT. He gathers and specifies the business’ wishes and communicates these to the IT department.
Many mature organizations have a department with lots of functional managers. What you often see, however, is that this is someone’s role within the project group, no matter what department they belong to. In that case there is no task description and he needs to determine how to take on this role. To structure the functional manager’s basic tasks, I’ll describe the most frequent ones.
1. Spotting technical issues
If there are technical issues, the functional manager is the business’ first point of contact to the party that needs to solve the issue. This can be the case when the application needs an update, users need the correct login data and permission or when the application is unavailable.
2. Collecting and prioritizing change requests
The applications needs to be adjusted continuously because of changing user needs or new possibilities in the software. It is up to the functional manager to collect and prioritize all user requests. The important approved request will be forwarded, preferably to a functional designer (FD), an application manager or supplier. They can eventually make the changes in the software. Without prioritizing you run the risk that people work on functionalities that add little value.
3. Informing users via key users
Users need to be informed about the new possibilities in the application. The best way to do this is by letting the functional manager communicate this information through key users. They can make sure that all users stay up-to-date. To get key users more involved with multiple set-up questions, the functional manager can create a platform where they can share their ideas. This could be a key user meeting, for example.
4. Supervising new implementations
It could occur that the application needs to be expanded to satisfy the users, for example when new processes need to be supported. The functional manager will consider which application can be used best for this and how. He translates the new needs into new functionalities.
5. Functional testing
The functional manager periodically, or after an update, tests if everything still functions according to the agreements made with the user organization. This is called a functional application test (FAT). The FAT can be verified by a user acceptance test (UAT). In both cases, the functional manager is responsible for preparing, supervising and performing the test.
6. Communicating with end users
The functional manager communicates reactively and proactively with the end users. He communications reactively to all stakeholders when there is a disruption or a change in use. With proactive communications, such as newsletters, intranet or videos, he can make sure that the end users get used to the application so they can work with it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
7. Training operators
The functional manager ensures that all operators and key users know how to work with the application. He can do this through class teaching, presentations or video tutorials. The goal is that all operators understand the tool and can perform the processes via the agreed steps.
8. Making documentation available
After the training sessions, the functional manager makes manuals available for the operators to use as reference. A frequently used form is the work instruction, a step-by-step manual. You can use this to get familiar with the tool and it also automatically leads you through the process as agreed upon in the organization.
Find some more inspiration with our Customer Centricity E-book.
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