6 Rules of effective software implementation

If you want to get your software implementation right, on time and on budget then there are six clear rules to follow.

Decide what you want before you start – it’s very tempting to just lurch in and then call whatever you end up with the system but to be honest it’s the project management equivalent of sticking a pin in a map and calling it your destination.
Don’t rush it – take your time. Good things always come to those that wait. We’re not really advocating waiting around, but take your time over scoping out what you want and making sure that you get the configuration right.
Get the team right – none of us like dealing with sulky teenagers right? Nothing upsets people like being forced to do something they don’t want to do or being excluded from a great trip to the beach, just because they are in the wrong department.
Work out the money then add a bit – this installation is going to cost you more than your software vendor is telling you. They’re not being dishonest just optimistic. Add on a bit extra to the budget then if it’s still left at the end we can have a party.
Make sure you allow your team enough time to get properly involved – Don’t expect people to just shoehorn it into their day. You’re a busy company right? Get in a temp or two if you have to and let people have some time to get the software right.
Get some independent advice – not your mum, or the chap down the pub or the person who is trying to sell you their latest super duper system. Find someone who has implemented more than one system for more than one type of company.

Rule 1 Deciding what you want
This may seem obvious but it’s actually one of the biggest causes of so called ‘failure’. In fact what happens is a company decides to implement part of a package and then along the way finds all sorts of super wonderful things that they’d like to have (prompted of course by the implementation consultants). The budget comes under stress, the timescale increases and people get demotivated.
Be clear at the outset what your definition of success is. IF other things turn up then put them into Phase 2 and plan that separately. Scope the project correctly, make sure you have a plan with timings, costs and people. Make sure you share the definitions of success right at the start with the stakeholders just so that everyone understands what is going on.

Rule 2 Don’t rush it – take your time
Throwing in a system might seem like a really good idea. This is what happens in entrepreneurial big picture type companies. The executives think they are being clever and decisive. Ask Michael Dell how clever and decisive their implementation was. It cost millions and was eventually consigned to the bin.
Take long enough to scope your project, choose your system and make your plan. Every £1 spent planning saves £3 in wasted effort

Rule 3 get your team right
You’d be amazed at how many software projects go ahead with people that can’t be found jobs elsewhere in the organisation or people who have a ‘bit of an idea about IT’. Don’t appoint people because they play golf with the boss, appoint them because they are good at projects.
Make sure you have a full spread of people from the departments that will be affected by the software, that way you’ll not only retain buy in from the very people who will have to use your system, but also have people on your team that may be able to spot potential practical issues before they become a problem. In fact I’d go further and say that if you appoint all executives to your team THEY WILL MISS SOMETHING. Appoint at as low a level as you can and you’ll grab a lot more of the jobs that actually make your organisation run.

Rule 4 – work out the money then add a bit
Trust me this will cost more than you think. IT always does. We always underestimate the number of users, the number of licences, how long implementation will take. FACT. Make sure your project plan has fat, not only in terms of money but also time because that tricky data cleanse will take an awful lot longer than you think.

Rule 5 Make sure you allow your team enough time to get involved
A surprising number of projects are started with the view that Doris from accounts will be able to do her normal day job alongside her duties to the project. Well she won’t. Plan backfill by getting in temps or get a project specialist to work on the team instead but make sure you have enough resource

Rule 6 get some independent advice
Would you buy a used car without getting it checked over first. How much weight do you put on the salesmans words when he says it’s a nice little runner? So why do people commit to very expensive software based purely on the world of what after all is a salesman?

Find someone with experience in choosing (choosing, not implementing, running or selling) software. They’ll make sure it’s the right fit for your company and guide you through the beauty parade. They’ll point you in the right direction for planning the project, deciding on who will do the job and how to go forward. They may even Project Manage it for you. Getting it right at this point will save you a lot of time and money.

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