Advisory Services

November 01, 2021

The Implementation Stage of a Software Project

software implementation

If you’ve made it this far into the ERP pre-planning & selection process, congratulations! You’ve selected what you think is the best solution for you and your company. Now it’s finally time to implement. We reviewed these stages in detail in our Pre-planning for an ERP Implementation blog and Requirements & ERP Selection blog posts, which hopefully set you up for success, but if we’re being honest, there are still many ways a software implementation can go sideways. Fortunately, though, with our years of experience working alongside clients, we’ve gathered some small but mighty steps you can take so you can get through a software implementation successfully and gain the best return on your investment.

We talked about making sure the team and leadership are on board with the project in our Pre-Planning blog. We also talked about how it’s key to make sure your new partner’s implementation team is involved in the selection discussions, but now is the time to make sure you have the right players on YOUR team.

Who Needs to Be Involved?

Make sure the people most familiar with your business processes are involved in the software implementation project. Pick leaders from different groups. Different perspectives from different areas are key to understanding the whole picture. You’ll be more apt to uncover solutions to problems that crop up. Todd Perlman, President of BT Partners, explains it best, “Choose people who will more likely have the answers, but if they don’t have the answers, they know where to get them.”

Todd recalls an awkward and almost devastating situation with a past client who discovered during their conference room pilot – a walk-through of their new system during implementation – that the company misunderstood and miscommunicated a critical process involved in the ERP system change. Of course, at this point, it’s too late for them to consider a different product, and so it severely disrupted implementation. The client spent a lot of unnecessary extra time during implementation redefining process requirements and sorting out a solution that would work with the new ERP they just purchased. On average, ERP implementations take 30% more time than estimated, and this is one of the reasons why.

Although discovering this issue during the pilot is better than discovering it during training and especially better than after go-live, it should never have come up during implementation at any point. By having your key team members involved as early as possible in the selection process, you can avoid a similar situation.

Staff Time and Dedication to the Project

Your starting lineup must be 100% dedicated to the implementation of the project. If that means reassigning some or all the players’ regular duties or backfilling their position while they’re focused on the implementation, then do that. Make sure to arrange staff support so the implementation team is properly dedicated to keeping the project momentum strong. Creating roles and responsibilities amongst the team is also helpful and can be referenced throughout the implementation if any questions come up on who’s doing what.

As Todd Perlman, President of BT Partners, said “It’s a cultural thing. When leadership is behind the software implementation and the company has a can-do attitude, they’re going to do better than when the project is being pushed on their people. If leadership is behind it and supportive of it, they can help prioritize projects, so the project gets the team’s full attention.”

This can be a game-changer when compared with the implementation of a company that has other initiatives. For example, we once worked with a client who was actively acquiring companies and decided to do an ERP project. In the middle of the software implementation, leadership decided to pull all the resources off the project to focus on the latest acquisition. Ultimately, this delayed the project by over 3 months, so all momentum was lost, the cost of the project went up significantly, and we had to start over with training the client’s end users.

Think of momentum as the energy source of the project. Once you lose it, it’s hard to get it back.

Process Prioritization

Todd shares his expert opinion, “Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Create a wish list of everything you want the new system to do, and make sure the additional functionality is possible down the road.” Once you’ve found a process you want to focus on during implementation, then you can begin to prioritize all the other processes you’ve come up with and rank them in order of importance and impact. Then, categorize them into what you can do now and what you want to do down the road. Don’t set up a solution that doesn’t let you change what you want to in phase 2. Process prioritization helps to manage a complex project, like an ERP implementation and increases your ROI down the road.

Keep in mind that you can’t do everything all at once. If there’s a process that your team is focused on, take a good look at it. Ask the entire team, “How important is this process really?” or “How often do we engage in this process, and how much effort will it take to implement in the new system?” If it’s not a common process, perhaps your team should consider coming up with a different one. Aim to see the biggest improvement post-implementation, either by accelerating workflows, increasing operational efficiency, or raising productivity. So, involve your team in deciding on priorities and see what might not be that big of a deal to not prioritize if it’s only done once or twice a year. If you need to narrow the scope of the implementation, then focus on solutions that have the best outcome on the work environment immediately and leave the other solutions for upcoming phases.

We realize an ERP implementation can be overwhelming and is a lot to consider. It’s a long and expensive process, but if you choose the right partner, you don’t have to have all the details and information mastered. A good partner, like BT Partners, will help guide and walk you through allllll of the processes, making it much less painful for both you and your staff.

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