Here is a synopsis of an excellent article by Rebecca Gill, VP of Technology Group International, Implementing Accounting Software On Time, On Task And On Budget:
When implementing new business software, implementing on time and on budget is not by chance. As with any project plan, a detailed and methodical process must commence to insure success. A plan for implementing new enterprise software is no different than any major project being undertaken by a corporation. It requires a significant investment of time and resources, requires the involvement of virtually the entire organization, as well as a considerable amount of research, planning, and reevaluation along the way.
The best project is well thought out and fully researched. It is not limited to a budget and timeline, but focuses on tasks, owners, goals, and milestones. It begins at the time of software selection and goes well beyond go-live. And although most projects will stumble along the way, successful implementations that actually end on time and on budget are quite possible if managed properly.
Review Key Business Objects & Long-term Goals – The first step and probably one of the most overlooked steps, is to review key business objects and future organizational goals.
Establish a Team & Define a Leader – The need of acquiring new software is typically driven by a few, yet felt by the masses. Frequently a few over zealous employees take on the project and believe they can manage it themselves. Although this is always done with good intentions, it leaves the project open for unending delays due to resource constraints. A software implementation is more work then any one individual can manage. Even the most well intentioned type A individual will quickly realize implementations can be overwhelming if not managed with a solid set of resources.
Prepare a Project Plan, Meet, & Reevaluate Frequently – As with any project, a plan is critical. The project plan includes a definition of the project structure, project scope, and individual project phases and tasks.
Research & Prepare a Budget – One of the most common areas of frustration and delay is the project budget. Overeager project managers tend to underestimate the cost of software, hardware, and implementations just to get the project moving. Not only does this cause much angst among the executives, it many times stops the project flat. Budgetary mistakes and lack of funding put more projects on hold than virtually any other reason. And for the most part, this is completely due to lack of education, because the price of ERP software and related services shifts little from year to year.
Define Clear Requirements & Project Goals – Yes this is being reiterated again. Functional requirements and project goals need to be established early on and in very clear and specific terms.
Select the Right Package – Select the right package for the right reasons. Do not accept glitzy PowerPoint presentations or slick salespeople. Dive into the software supplierâ€™s organization, product, support team, and long-term objectives. Due the due diligence of reviewing full day demonstrations, checking references, and talking to key executives. Document everything. After reviewing multiple demonstrations, the systems tend to meld together into one large mess.
The team needs to clearly evaluate and document each presentation, meeting, or customer visit. This will be well worth the time in the end.
Testing, Testing, and More Testing – Now the time has come to really get into the heart of the implementation. Testing is futile without the right package, which is why so much time and effort is placed on the selection process. That being said, testing is absolutely critical for success.
Establishing and executing a comprehensive test plan with good test data is paramount for success. This test plan must address the core business processes used within the organization to prove that consistent and predictable results will occur when processes are executed in a production environment.
Data Migration – Successfully migrating data is much more than merely extracting and importing files. It is an ongoing process that should occur numerous times before actual go live.
It includes extracting pertinent data from the existing legacy systems, cleansing the data for any errors or inaccuracies, importing the data into the new ERP environment, and then verifying that the data came across correctly. Again, the word testing comes back into play.
Training the End Users & Technical Staff – Adequately training functional users and technical resources is timely and expensive. It is unavoidable. Without proper training, users will feel frustrated, confused, and will immediately have a negative reaction toward the new system. This will, without doubt, produce a failed implementation each and every time.
Seek Outside Assistance if Needed – Third party, independent consultants can quickly turn a floundering team or project into an implementation powerhouse. Most companies only purchase and implement business software every five, ten, or fifteen years. They are not well verse on the subject and should not be due to the lag between projects. Technical consultants not only have the knowledge to execute a flawless launch, they also provide years of lessons learned that can be applied to future projects.
Take Control & Take Away Failure – Execute on time, on task, and on budget by controlling the entire project through conception through go live. Led by in house or through an outside professional, flawless executions of software implementations are possible. They do not happen by chance, on their own, or without effort. But they are certainly a reality if given the right team and project plan.