The Implementation Mindset
The Implementation Mindset
You’ve identified a gap in your existing systems. It may be the technology has not kept up with the times, it may be that the functionality is lacking, or one of the many other reasons people choose to review their current business software requirements.
You start a communication with the whole company that change is beginning today and invite feedback that gets the team thinking about the process as a whole. Feedback could include having round table meetings with all departments talking about processes from beginning to end, having complete clarity on what part each person plays in the process, and identifying gaps, duplication and process redundancies.
Now that you have a complete understanding of the issues across the business and the company’s future needs, you can go to market and review all available options. Based on your criteria gained during the consultation period, you can determine the best software and vendor to meet those needs. After validating your choice with appropriate due diligence, you sign the contract.
The Kick Off
Having selected the software, you hand pick the team to help implement the software. You make sure to empower this team to not just look at the software but continue to review all business processes and encourage them not to stick to the status quo but investigate new ways of doing things that can improve the business. You challenge the team to remove all duplication of processes and remove redundant processes that deliver no valuable return to the company.
To support the implementation team, you have assisted them by reallocating work so they have dedicated time to focus on the implementation; you may have done this by bringing in additional temporary staff or reallocating resources to give them the time to be successful.
To ensure clarity across the team and alignment to your vision, you call regular internal update meetings to review progress and validate the system will provide the benefits you identified at the outset.
Working with the software vendor, your team discovers the software’s functionality and starts to match your business processes to the software.
Empowered with the information, the vendor and their team will start configuring the software to meet your needs based on your shared information.
During this period, your team start their in-depth learning process by reviewing supplied training material and online courses to ensure that they understand the fundamentals allowing them to be more engaged with the process and understand how the software works.
The team should also be documenting (if they have not already) the critical business processes, understanding the difference between the current “As-Is” and the desired “To-Be” using any knowledge gained from the initial stages to inform the preferred “To-Be”.
There are many tools on the market to do this graphically; it can be done best in word as a user story. E.g. When a Project is signed, the first step is… this then goes to ‘x’ who does ‘y’ and files ‘a’ into ‘x’ folder on the server then emails this to ‘l’.
The vendor has configured the software, now comes time to get your hands on the software. The vendor will typically have some training to help your team understand how the software works, discuss particulars of your business and modify the configuration to meet particular business needs.
Using the desired “To-Be” documentation and the training, both self-discovered using the training material and the instructor-based training to refine and validate the team start testing the processes from beginning to end, identifying any gaps and reviewing options to meet those gaps with the vendor. Looking at the importance of the step and if it adds value to the process, updating the “To-Be” to suit enhances the process from beginning to end.
This phase is often called User Acceptance Testing and is one of the most critical steps in the success of a business application.
Note sometimes the planned changes are so significant that it can be helpful to do them in phases; attempting to complete all changes at once can cause pushback and, worse case – a failed implementation.
In these cases, reevaluate and consider smaller steps, as it may help deliver the most major change over a more considerable time. E.g. implement the new payroll process first, then implement the new project’s processes, then the finance.
The Go Live Preparation
The team have tweaked the software and updated the new and improved “To-Be” process, and it is now ready for broader introduction and discussion in the business. Congratulations to them; that is an excellent milestone!
Now comes the scary part, introducing the new process to the broader team, who may not all be advocates for the changes. This could be due to a concern about their role in the process, a misunderstanding of how the approach will work, or a missed step by the implementation team.
Note: it is better to have this discussion now than during the first weeks after go-live.
The broader team will get training in the software (remembering this is new to them, and the change in process could significantly change how they plan and complete their role, encouraging them and listening to their concerns is essential to success).
Undertake any final end-to-end process testing, ensuring everyone understands the new process and the part they play, validating that the outcomes are all met and that the software supports future growth.
Finally, determine your roll-back plan and your go/no-go triggers.
The Go Live
How exciting it is now time to Go Live with your new software, but it is not only the software that is changing but the business process that supports it. The first few weeks can be a little bumpy as the outliers (those scenarios that weren’t thought of) come to light. Never fear; this is normal! Your vendor will be very familiar with this, and the implementation team should review each one as they come up, examine their impact on the new “To-Be” process and tweak it to suit.
If the “As-Is” and “To-Be” processes were done with input across the team and validated along the way, rarely do any “Show Stoppers” actually occur.
Please work with your vendor when issues occur during this period; they’ve likely encountered them before. They have confidence that a solution can be found even if a temporary “workaround” is needed whilst further work is done to achieve the optimal outcome.
Now celebrate that you’ve made massive changes to your business and have set yourself on a journey to see your business continue to grow and have the systems to support that growth.
The Post Go Live
After the Go live period’s peak has finished, the implementation team can return to their regular duties. Congratulate them for work well done; they likely put in many hours of overtime but also did work well out of their comfort zone.
Whilst the implementation is done, the work of ongoing improvement is not; continue the gains you’ve made, tweak the processes further to gain further efficiencies. Remember also your software will continue to develop, and enhancements are often added. Review these regularly, identify features that can be adapted for your business and continue to challenge the status quo as you improve your business systems.