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5 keys to a successful technology implementation

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or simiar critical technology solution is a fairly major undertaking, and can often be disruptive to normal business functions. Because businesses typically seek to reap the benefits of a consolidation or upgrade project as soon as possible, timing is of the essence. The duration and success of implementations, however, depend on a variety of factors.

Project failure can be costly, damage your reputation and potentially lead to legal issues. Unfortunately, system implementations have a high track record of failures, often following ineffective project management or poor alignment with key business requirements. More specifically, implementation projects can fail due to a number of factors, including lack of governance, sponsorship and buy-in from the organization. Failure to identify and mitigate risks, and improperly addressing user readiness and adoption of new systems are also common issues.    

Following are five key areas to address in order to conduct a successful technology implementation or optimization project.

1. Planning: The project planning phase is where your project goals and expectations will be established. This is where you should align all players, internal and external, around the project objectives, plans, and roles and responsibilities. The primary objectives of the planning phase are to:

  • Clearly define goals and objectives
  • Clearly define what is in and out of scope
  • Ensure time and budget estimates are reasonable

2. Team structure and organizational support: On any project, understanding project team members’ roles, tasks and schedule commitments is crucial. Be sure to build the right team and implement a governance structure and project management office. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined, and resources must be distributed proportionally from the executive sponsor down to the individual functional experts. Key roles on the team include:

  • Project sponsor
  • Steering committee members
  • Project manager
  • Core team members
  • Module champions

A clear definition of project team time commitment and expectations helps to reduce the risk of resources missing key project deliverables.

3. Data management: Your organization must take steps to address data integration, conversion and history. The system is only as good as the data that is in it, and how you manage that information is critical for success. Key steps may include:

  • Cleansing data
  • Identifying key information
  • Re-aligning data for future use
  • Tying to legacy data to perform reporting and comparison
  • Integrating to other legacy systems (both internal and external)

4. Organizational change management: Implementing a new system is one of the most disruptive initiatives a company can embark upon. Employees’ roles and responsibilities change, processes are redefined, and the system people are familiar with is changing. Managing communication and end user adoption is vital to success. Be sure to have:

  • An adequate and clearly-defined training plan with time for knowledge transfer
  • Clear communication to end users throughout the project
  • A plan to assess organizational readiness before go-live
  • A clear definition of the purpose and benefit to the company
  • An understanding of the effects the project will have on different departments and individuals

5. Project management: This topic should not be overlooked—solid project management helps to greatly reduce project risks and increase the likelihood of achieving the desired business results. Don't just focus on the “hows” of the project; remember the “whys.”  Think critically, ask questions, push back and work as a team to deliver the best possible outcome for your company. To accomplish this, leverage project management resources and structure to provide:

  • A well-managed implementation, especially with regard to budget, resources, activities and timing
  • A structured scope change process
  • Documented risks with mitigation steps
  • Clear and consistent communication
  • Effectively managed facilitation and coordination of project resources and business decisions

Enhanced automation capabilities and innovation within core business systems are leading technology trends as organizations seek to become more efficient and better understand their customers. Implementing these five key steps can help reduce stress and the likelihood of project failure, while increasing successful end-user use of the system and ultimately increasing the value of your business.    

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