There's more to a successful software implementation than simply purchasing a solution. In fact, according to some research reports, more than 80 percent of deployment projects fail. That's a lot of time, money and technology down the drain. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure software implementation success.
1. Think beyond IT. Your IT department may be all aflutter about your new purchase, but don't let IT go it alone. "It's a huge mistake to think that software deployments and implementations are IT projects," warned Jim Blankenheim, senior program director at Computer Sciences Corporation, a Virginia-based IT company specializing in consulting, systems integration and outsourcing. "Failure to get the business adequately involved is a huge pitfall." That's because every IT undertaking demands adequate sponsorship from senior-level managers willing to commit the necessary time and resources to a project. Without such support, warns Blankenheim, an implementation will likely fall through the cracks when new projects move to the top of the priority list.
2. Govern yourself accordingly. Governance is key to ensuring that a company understands — and is prepared for — the impact that introducing new software can have on business processes. After all, said Blankenheim, "It's rare that you'd put in a new software application that would have zero impact on the business processes." Preparing an inventory of processes and forecasting the effects of new software can help minimize the impact.
3. Prepare for change. There's a reason the IT department campaigned for that brand new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system or CRM solution. Now it's time to sell that reason to the masses. Employees need to know why a particular application was purchased, what type of ROI (return on investment) can be expected, and what's in it for them. "Change management is crucial," said Blankenheim. "It involves focusing the pain and ensuring a good deal of communication across the enterprise."
4. Driving adoption. One of the fastest ways to convince employees to embrace a new software system is through training . After all, when armed with the necessary knowledge and skills, an employee will be far more likely to put a solution to good use. What's more, Blankenheim said proper training "reduces stress by showing employees how the new system works and how it applies to doing your job. Otherwise, it's just like handing over the user's manual for your new car."
5. Anticipate tech headaches. A number of technical issues can arise when implementing a software solution. For example, when converting data from one order processing system to another, it's not uncommon for companies to discover "redundant and ambiguous information," said Blankenheim. Nevertheless, he said, "Fixing such problems is generally up to the business side of the company. IT can support them, but the business organization needs to sit down and say, ‘This is what it needs to be done.' "
6. Get help. Not every company has the time and internal skills needed to shepherd a successful software implementation from start to finish. "Often it's hard for a company to devote the kinds of resources it needs to deliver a complicated project. Bringing someone in from the outside can find that focus," said Blankenheim. But a consultant or systems integrator is more than simply a helping hand. Rather, Blankenheim said, a third-party provider can play the important role of both "common enemy [and] mediator. The third-party integrator becomes a key change agent," he explained. "We're hired to get the job done, and sometimes that involves breaking some eggs to make the omelet. There's always spirited discussions about what needs to get done and when."
Although some companies balk at the expense of bringing a third party on board, external assistance can expedite the implementation process, resulting in overall savings. "Once you get a project going, every delay is an additional cost and/or deferred benefit," said Blankenheim.
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