Author: Yogi Schulz

Summary : Yogi identifies five critical success factors that lead to achieving business value from implementing software packages

In Summary:

Superior system implementation is the key to achieving business value from great software.

Your management team has likely experienced the following symptoms of new system implementation difficulties:

  1. Why does it feel like the system implementation project is taking forever?
  2. If the new software is so great, why is the project team proposing so many enhancements?
  3. Where are the surprising data inaccuracies on reports coming from?
  4. If the new software is so state-of-the-art, what is causing my staff to complain about sluggish performance
  5. If the new software is so high quality, why is implementation of software patches and version upgrades consuming so much effort?

What follows is a discussion of management and technology actions that produce business value from software packageinvestments.

In Summary:

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Improve project planning

The most frequent cause of system projects taking forever is inadequate planning. Implementing a software package requires more than clicking “Install” when prompted.

Often system projects take longer than management expects because the scope is unclear. Project teams frequently encounter new scope that they did not anticipate. When they try to address it, projects take longer. For example, should a CRM project also implement a new call center that would be useful added scope but is not essential to the initial project goal?

Projects that operate with a reasonably formal project plan tend to be more successful because the plan focuses project team effort and explains what the project is all about to the rest of the organization.

When management encourages the creation of a project plan, the planning exercise will illuminate scope issues. When management helps resolve the issues, the project team will improve its performance to shorten the project schedule.

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Adopt the business processes of the software package

System project costs balloon when the project team proposes enhancements to the software package. The request typically arises because the software package operates differently from the way business is currently conducted. For example, the software package may perform a credit check when an order is entered rather than when it is confirmed back to the customer. This business process is different from what the organization is used to, causing an enhancement to be proposed.

When management vocally supports adopting the business processes incorporated into the software package, the system project will accelerate and project costs will be contained.

Often added business value occurs when the organization discovers that the business processes incorporated into the software package are actually superior to pre-existing processes.

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Ensure data cleanup is in scope

It’s not unusual to have data inaccuracies appear on initial reports when a new system is implemented. For example, British Columbia sales might suddenly appear in the Eastern Canada region of the sales summary report.

This problem occurs because the data in the source system is rarely as clean as one might like. The migration of this data to the new system suddenly highlights this long-hidden problem.

This lack of data cleanliness merits attention to ensure that the business value of the new system is in fact realized. It’s prudent to plan for some data cleanup in the scope and cost of the new system implementation.

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Budget for sufficient computing capacity

New systems initially deliver sluggish performance when they are expected to perform faster than predecessor systems. For example, adding a new customer used to take about one minute while on the new system it now takes almost four minutes.

An improved performance expectation is difficult to meet because the new system invariably manages more data, offers more functionality and is available to more end-users. These characteristics demand more server, network and workstation resources. For example, the new system is likely to retain more order detail and more customer history than the predecessor being retired.

It’s prudent to review the capacity of the existing computing infrastructure as part of the new system project. It’s quite common to find that new servers are needed and that a network capacity upgrade is overdue.

When the new system operates on an adequate computing infrastructure, improved performance expectations will be met. The business value is typically improved customer service.

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Automate software distribution

The effort to implement software package patches and version upgrades can become onerous when the software vendor frequently adds functionality and resolves software bugs. While it’s terrific to work with a software vendor who is developing the product and solving problems, it also costs effort to keep up.

It’s useful to consider implementing automated software distribution to reduce staff effort associated with managing patches and version upgrades.

The stability and availability of the new system will improve with reduced cost for operational support. That adds to the business value of the new system.

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