The selection of a new system is a monumental task for any organization. Careful attention to meeting the needs of multiple departments and disciplines is often necessary. But once the selection is made, is the same attention paid to implementing the system? Often,those who are required to use the new system do not connect with the vision the selection committee drove from during the search. The implementation can unfortunately become an exercise in frustration as the implementation competes with the day-to-day job functions of those who must learn, setup and test each of the modules prior to a fearful go-live exercise.
Many of these pitfalls can be minimized with appropriate project management. The path to a successful implementation should be well thought out and communicated to those who must accomplish the feat. Planning the process, and following the plan will provide a much better probability of a successful launch. In support of the plan,consistent periodic communications reviewing what has been accomplished,evaluating the perceived progress and verifying the next steps, allows everyone to stay on plan.
CS3 Technology follows a five step plan for each system implementation. With the appropriate involvement and support from the customer, we have found consistent success much easier to accomplish. The following discussion relates to each of the five steps, their purpose, and the expected results. At the end of the article, we have also included a Sample Project Outline. We hope you can benefit from our experience and knowledge.
Prior to any project, the results must be envisioned. The implementation of a system assumes the design team has outlined the vision, scope and parameters of the business solution. Once the questions of “why” is the business solution needed and “what” tools/systems make up the solution, the implementation project team begins by planning “how”the business will be moved from concept to reality. The project plan will define what tasks need to be accomplished and in what order. The plan will also define who is responsible for completing the tasks and when the tasks are due. To complete-the plan, the resources required to complete the project should also be defined.
System Initiation, Setup and Training:
Every system provides for optional functionality allowing the organization the opportunity to determine how their processes and procedures will be tracked. In order for the system to work properly, the system administrator(s)must be identified and properly trained on the capabilities of the system. In order to verify the system will work correctly for the company, each feature should be explained, the options understood and a selection made based on their best use by the company. While the trainer may have a familiarity with the customer’s needs, internal personnel should make the final decisions on which options will work best in their environment and achieve the desired results. The goal is not to simply replace current functionality, but to gain improvements in workflow effectiveness and strategic information. In addition,initial steps should be taken to identify data and reports which will be required for the initial go-live of the system. The conversion of data should provide ample information to conduct business. Reports should be designed with the idea that new information should provide new insight. What will the new information allow the company to improve upon?
User Training and System Testing:
Once the system setup is complete, testing the system is crucial in verifying the system will work as conceived. Additionally, the end users need to become so familiar with the new processes, they can continue their jobs on the day of go-live without any surprises. In order for the end users to gain experience and expertise they should be fully immersed in the testing process. While classroom training will help an end user become familiar with the new system,it will be the repetition of processing that really provides experience. As anomalies occur, the end user must try various steps to correct the process. Finding out what works and does not work to achieve the correct results is the key to fully understanding each function in the system. At the same time, if an incorrect option has been selected during system setup, it will become apparent and corrections maybe made. This process along with verifying and balancing converted data will minimize the problems encountered at go-live.
Go-Live and Follow up:
Go-Live should be a non-event. With proper execution of the plan, the system is correctly setup, data is converted, and end-users are trained and have experience with all of the processes contained within the system. Of course, no project will be without problems. But proper training and testing will minimize the glitches to a handful of annoyances. Go-live preparation should include the verification that the project’s goals will be met by the new system. The new processes should be in place to “fix” the old ineffective processes and provide the strategic information necessary for improved customer service and allow for better management decisions. Often there are open issues which will need to be completed at a later date. The tasks should be accounted for and assigned to the appropriate personnel for completion. In addition, follow up step should be schedule to verify the system is working as anticipated. Analysis of results will often yield unanticipated results. Proper follow up will provide the information necessary to continue making incremental improvements.
If you have questions about this article or the outline, please let us know. We are open to your ideas for improvement as well. We are never done in the process of changing and improving. As the business environment and technology continues to change, we all must adapt. The sharing of knowledge is the one instance where giving to someone else does not diminish the donor's resources.
General ERP Implementation Project Outline:
I. Project Planning
a. Pre-Implementation Planning
i. Objectives – why is the project important to the organization?
ii. Goals – what are the highest priorities
iii. Scope Document – what steps and tasks are to be completed and who is responsible for each?
b. Project Planning Documentation
i. Kickoff meeting
1. Define time frame
2. Quantify resources (including team members) available for the project
3. Define limitations which will be present during the project
ii. Planning documents
1. Project plan outlining
a. Steps to be completed
b. Who is responsible for the step’s completion
c. What is the time frame for the step to be completed
d. Are there any prerequisites required prior to the current step
2. Action List tracking
a. Specific actions to be taken
b. Who is responsible for the actions completion
c. What is the due date for the action
3. Team Matrix
a. Who will be participating in the project
b. Contact information for each team member
c. What are their roles in the project
d. What level of communication will the team member receive
4. Project Calendar
a. What is the Kickoff to Go-live time frame
b. What dates are all team members unavailable and why
c. What dates are specific team members unavailable
d. Are their dates when specific business processes take priority over project tasks
iii. Environmental planning answers the following questions
1. What software product is necessary and has it been acquired
2. What-hardware is required and is it available for use
3. What support tools are necessary and are they available (backups, storage and/or cloud infrastructure, web tools, communication tools)
4. Are the personnel necessary for ongoing support of the infrastructure in place
II. System Initiation
a. System setup and training
i. Review current business processes in place
ii. Train appropriate personnel on the system setup options
iii. Determine options required for the organization's best utilization of the system
iv. Configure the system options as required
v. Define modifications planned for business processes based on system setup
b. Gather information required for data conversion
i. Define data conversion plan
1. Datatypes (master records, transaction history, open records)
2. Quantity/Quality of data to be converted
a. Master records not used for some period of time
b. Number of years to convert transactions
c. Historical transactions conversion in detail or summary
3. Points of time within the project requiring data conversion
a. Master table conversion for setup, testing and training
b. Historical transaction conversions for testing, training and production use
c. Conversion of open records at go-live date
4. Method of conversion, manual vs. electronic, for each data type
ii. Forms and reports required
iii. Electronic data to be exchanged with other organizations with specifications
iv. Information to be exchanged with other internal/external systems and specifications
III. User training and system testing
a. Train end users on transactions processes
b. Define types and quantity of practice transactions for end user to complete to reach desired comfort level with new systems and processes
c. Perform parallel processes of transactions to verify new system produces desired results
d. Verify/balance all converted data
e. Test results of interfaces with outside firms
f. Test results of interfaces with other internal systems
a. Perform Go-live preparations
i. Verify all Objectives can be met with the new system
ii. Verify personnel are confident in the system and its use
iii. Complete any open issues which would affect the success of Go-Live
iv. Verify the accuracy of all Master table data conversions
v. Gain consensus and authorize go-live
b. Go-Live process
i. Perform environmental changes to production systems
ii. Perform data conversions for open records
iii. Verify accuracy of all converted data
iv. Begin use of systems
c. Post Go-Live steps
i. Review all processes are working as planned
ii. Verify personnel are performing as desired
iii. Verify objectives of the project have been met
iv. Define any open issues which need to be completed
v. Perform an After Action Review
1. Discuss what went well with the project
2. Discuss what could have been done better
3. Discuss what changes should be made to the implementation process to make sure the project is performed better in the future
vi. Determine and define methodologies for ongoing support of the new systems and end users
d. Close the project
i. Conduct After Action Review
1. What did we do well?
2. How can we assure we do this well next time?
3. What did we not do well?
4. How can we assure improvement next time?
ii. Follow up on open items
iii. Schedule review in 3-6 months to verify results and plan for additional improvements