There are many different ways to approach a technology implementation, all with its own set of benefits and challenges. Most implementations follow the phases depicted below (although the naming convention may vary), to a smaller or larger extent, depending on the scope and size of the specific implementation. There are many pitfalls you should avoid in a technology implementation and getting it done correctly allows for more time to focus on making better business decisions—getting it wrong means you are in for a world of worry.
Communication and Change Management
Communication and successful change management are two of the most important factors that span the entire process—determining the success of the project. Most often not enough attention is paid to either of these, mainly because many organizations are uncomfortable with change management and therefore do not give it the support that is required.
"Communication and successful change management are two of the most important factors that span the entire process-determining the success of the project"
Not Having the Right Team
Creating the project team is critical step in the implementation process. Questions such as, “Who needs to be involved?” and “How to motivate people?” are key questions to ask. Having the wrong people on the team can prolong the implementation and potentially end up derailing the implementation in the end.
It is important that the project team represents all aspects of the business. There should be someone from each of the functions who will interact with the new system. Team members should have a strong knowledge of the current processes and procedures in their functional area and be active system users with hands on experience, knowing what the system does—as well as its shortcomings.
The Project Manager should be someone higher up in the organization—having an understanding of how the business operates and where the business is heading is important for a successful implementation. This also includes discussing the broader strategy with functional leaders and the executive team as it may just be that there are other initiatives underway that can impact the implementation.
The Project Plan—a Roadmap for the Implementation
An important part of the planning phase is the development of the project plan, which will serve as a roadmap throughout the rest of the project and help ensure the implementation is completed within scope, budget and time.
The level of details included in the project plan will depend on the type and size of implementation. There is a large variety of project management tools available to help with the project plan. For larger projects, tools like Microsoft Projects, Zoho Projects or Basecamp etc., can be very helpful. For smaller projects, tools such as Microsoft Excel or Smartsheet can easily do the job.
The key is to select a project management tool that helps you improve your overall work efficiency and workflow, and not one that ends up taking more time to manage than doing the actual job.
Support from Senior Management—Not Just IT
It can be very beneficial to have a steering committee and a senior executive as the sponsor of the project in addition to the project manager. This will help move the project along when there are roadblocks or other challenges.
It is noteworthy that often times a software implementation can be interpreted by others as just another IT project, particularly if a person within the IT department or a person with a strong IT background is the Project Manager. It is therefore important that the project be viewed as a project that involves and affects the entire organization—not just IT.
The documentation of key processes is the foundation for configuring the new system and also helps the team with building out the project plan. This involves meeting with all stakeholders—looking for red flags, or gaps between the user requirements and the system capabilities. These issues can greatly affect the implementation and the sooner they are identified the better the team can work to resolve these issues.
It is important to identify risks that might push out the implementation timeline or make the implementation more complex. The risks identified should be documented and steps taken to mitigate them, sweeping these under the carpet will not be beneficial to a successful implementation.
Risks to be identified can be both quantitative and qualitative and might include things such as complex or inaccurate financial records or operational data, strong personal preference towards a different solution, availability of project team members during the implementation and so on. One thing is sure—if resources cannot be freed up and dedicated to the implementation—it will fail.
Go / No Go Decision
As the project approaches the scheduled go-live date, the project team should work through a final evaluation of the system. Based on the results of the evaluation the team should decide whether or not the system is ready to go-live.
In the past, companies would run both the legacy system and the new system in parallel to minimize the risk and ensure that everything was working as expected. The problem with this approach is that the workload more than doubles, because the users have to enter data in both systems and compare, analyze and report on any differences between the two systems. Today most companies build confidence in the new system and cut over all at once, rather than running both systems in parallel.
After the new system is live, there will be a need for ongoing maintenance and support of the new system in order to enhance the overall productivity and benefit. There may be features in the system that the team decided to defer until after the system was live. Although thorough planning and testing are done along the way, there will most likely always be a need for continued support and modifications to the system as the business progresses.
Post Implementation Review
The project team should conduct a post implementation review to determine what went well during the entire process and what could have been improved upon. This will ensure that future implementations are run in a more efficient and effective manner, thereby enhancing the experience of other implementations for the entire company moving forward.
The process of implementing a new technology can be a challenge for most organizations, when you consider all the variables, the path followed will never be the same for two companies. Hopefully, the aforementioned key points will help you improve your company’s chances for a successful implementation with lasting benefits for your company.