Everything You Need to Know About New Business Software #7
We’ve been on a bit of a journey, you and I. You have determined that you need new software for your business. You’ve picked the best solution and created an RFI. You’ve asked partners to demo and selected the best partner and you may even have applied for funding. There is nothing left to do but implement.
Here’s 4 Tips to Ensure a Smooth Implementation
1)Don’t customise the crap out your software. Let’s just put something out there from the start – there is no software which is 100% correct for your business. Not a single one. Not even bespoke software. Better to operate on Pareto’s 80/20 rule. If 80% of the software meets your needs then that is a great result. There is a real temptation to customise the crap out of a system when it doesn’t exactly and completely match your business process or methods. It’s best to avoid this if possible.
When you meet these stumbling blocks, use it as an opportunity to examine your process. Are you doing it correctly? Could there be another (dare I say easier or more efficient) way? If not and you have to customise ask yourself if you have a proven and measurable benefit. If not? Don’t do it.
Another myth I am going to bust is that your business is unique. Everyone thinks that what they do is dramatically different from their peers, competitors and wider world. On the whole this isn’t true. Of course, there will be points of differentiation between you and the competition. There are going to be things that you do astonishingly well and you will absolutely have areas of uniqueness, but when it boils down to it, most business processes are the same – from one business to another.
Take advice about what you should be customising and integrating. Don’t alter the software beyond all recognition – moderate your demands to suit your core purpose and importantly, your budget.
2) Make sure you have picked the right software in the first place. Assuming you haven’t customised the software beyond recognition, sometimes the software just isn’t the right fit.
“How is it possible to get something, this fundamental wrong?!” I hear you ask. The answer is two-fold. Either your implementation partners have sold you the wrong product, or, you haven’t provided them with the right information to enable them to offer you the right product.
Your software implementation specialist will come to the table with a wealth of business information. They will have implemented into multiple other companies across the discipline divide and can bring you best practice, from their own experience and from the software provider they represent. Take SAP for example; their software has been implemented into hundreds of thousands of companies around the world and they have honed best practice processes and built them into the software as a result. This is really very useful for you in terms of adding capability to your team. But you mustn’t ever confuse this kind of experience with experience within YOUR business.
It is absolutely necessary for you to ensure that your implementation experts have all the crucial information required to provide the right kind of software for your business. A good implementation consultant will make sure there are several check points or milestones throughout the process – make sure you use these to identify gaps which will have an impact on the project success. The earlier the gaps are found, the better the opportunity to plug them.
And when taking the crucial decision of who to implement with, go with someone you trust. Preferably someone with multiple software products so they won’t be tempted to shoe horn you into one specific solution.
3) Ensure the staff are prepped for the change. Much as I would like to become a better cook, I know that installing a new and expensive oven in my kitchen won’t improve my culinary skills unless I learn how it works and am prepared to invest in my own personal development.
Never lose sight of the fact that people will be running the software, not the other way round. You can’t expect the system to have much impact in your organisation if your people fail to engage with the process or have a vested interest in seeing the project fail.
Remember that software automates many manual processes, which could be perceived as a threat if not managed delicately and with respect to staff. Likewise, the software may change the process completely so your staff need to be supported through this change if it is to take effect and deliver the benefits expected to the company. If uptake on the new system is slow and reluctant then the benefit will inevitably take longer to be felt.
4) Plan plenty of time for the project. All too often, business owners don’t accept that it can’t be “business as usual” during the implementation and fail to put the right people in and for the right amount of time during the implementation. It’s unfortunate, but true, that you will pretty much be pulling your best people from their regular business tasks to form your implementation team. It’s also true that the implementation will consume much their time.
However, it is also true that this is an opportunity to develop more junior members of staff who will inevitability have to get more involved in the business to back fill for the senior staff. These should all be seen as great investment opportunities for any business because your great team, coupled with great software will be the dream outcome for you.
Inevitably it is decisions made at the top which have the biggest impact on ERP Implementations. Good decisions, made well are often fraught with difficulty, but get it right and you’ll reap the benefit for years to come. Anyone can make a decision, but making a smart decision is tricky!
All that remains is for me to wish you well with your software project.