In this post, our program manager Harshal Tole talks about the the necessary steps needed for a successful implementation.
Every software’s usability and efficacy is determined by how well it was implemented to begin with. The software may be a great fit for a company and it may have been used to do great things at another companies, but how well it is implemented and adopted across the company will decide if it reaches its full potential to help the company’s bottom line. Implementation that is within budget and on time coupled with good change management will be the cornerstone of a company’s success in achieving full benefits from the software.
Buy In – The departments responsible for using the software needs to be part of all conversations and have their voice heard and concerns addressed before any implementation should begin. This will decide the level of adoption and satisfaction – the gold standard for measuring success of any implementation
Communication, Communication, Communication – As understated as it gets, this will be the ‘One’ lynchpin that can make or break any project. Communicating proactively to the project sponsor, application owners and users of the software will ensure that all parties are properly informed of progress and milestones and can voice their concerns if there’s a chance that something might derail the software rollout. Always remember — you can never over-communicate.
Integration Points – This is one of the two most time intensive parts of implementation. No software exists in a vacuum. It has to consume information from other sources (HR data, Static Reference data, transaction’s data etc.) use this information to perform its work, crunch numbers and then supply value added information out to other systems in the company e.g. Reporting, Accounting, Payroll etc. Implementations get delayed due to either delay in data-integration on the inbound side or downstream systems unable to consume outbound data due to unforeseen end-to-end scenarios. The sooner these Integration Points are defined and finalized, the smoother the implementation will follow. Implementation managers shouldn’t lose sight of end-to-end testing; the testing is really only complete when inbound data is consumed fully and outbound data is processed in all of the critical downstream systems.
Information Exchange and Decisions – The second of the two most time-consuming parts, Lack of information and Delayed Decisions are most often cited as reasons for implementation time and cost over-runs. This again goes back to clear communication and identifying decision makers and the right participants in different parts of the project. If the decision makers are not part of the conversation, these will get delayed and ultimately cost the company in terms of time and money.
Define Success – An implementation is not really successful until it has been adopted by users and either fills in a service-void or decommissions another system(s) and the company realizes benefits from the use of this software. It is essential to define the Success Criteria and how it will be measured, at the very beginning of any implementation. The criteria should be trackable, measurable and objective. For e.g. the adoption rate of a mobile application can be judged from number of distinct downloads from the download site, efficiency of a workforce scheduling algorithm can be tied to number of changes made to a schedule ‘after’ it is published.
Best Practices – Educating on how to do something in the newly implemented software is extremely important phase of implementation. There may be better/different ways of doing the same task in the new software vs old software. We do not want to retrofit how something was done previously as-is into the new software, rather we should take a step back, look at what needs to be done and figure out the best way to achieve same thing using the new software while possibly eliminating bad or redundant practices. A portion of implementation timeline should include time to educate users on new functionality and establish best practices on how to do certain things and especially how not to do some things.
In the end, effectively utilizing the full power and capabilities of a system is a Journey and though implementation is just the beginning – done right, it avoids all the known pitfalls and sets the right path to avoid future problems and achieve a Successful Integration of the new Software into the company.