Implementing a software solution isn’t always as straight forward as it might sound. Large organisations may utilize internal or external resources such as IT experts, Change Managers, Business Analysts, Procurement Officers and Project Managers to help in the process of sourcing, selecting, procuring and then implementing the right solution for the business. Smaller organisations may not have the internal resources with sufficient expertise to draw on or capacity to work on such a project. This is when the use of an external consultant may be useful. Some of the phases of the project and points to consider when implementing a software solution are detailed below;
Feasability Analysis- What are the reasons for moving to a software solution? What budget has been allowed for the ongoing cost of the software? How much will the implementation and training project cost be?. What are the hardware requirements to support the project? Are your existing IT resources sufficient to manage this project?
Change Management- The way that your resources work with the new solution can be influenced even before the project kicks off. Bringing your staff on-board by engaging them in the process is so important for getting buy-in on the new solution and process. Ensure they understand the reasons for moving away from the existing process. Seek their input as to what will be important for them and their role moving forward.
Preselection Process- Ideally would one single solution or multi vendor solution be ideal for the organisation’s requirements.
Requirements Analysis- Analysing user requirements is critical to a successful implementation. When a new system is implemented the client needs to understand what functions are critical to the business and whether those functions are catered for with the solution. Often clients spend too little time discussing and analyzing key requirements with staff and are surprised at implementation and training time that the installed solution doesn’t meet basic needs when it comes to certain critical functions. Requirements can be detailed with importance level identified.
Requirements Gathering- using workplace observation, focus groups or conducting stakeholder interviews. All of this information is gathered and analysed before being documented. If a comprehensive requirements gathering exercise is not possible then consideration should be given for at least engaging with stakeholders and completing a high level ‘shopping list’ for stakeholders including not only users but IT Department resources.
Gap Analysis- You understand your business intimately and the software vendor understands the features of the software. A gap analysis is critical to identify and define where there are differences between your organisation’s business process and the application’s programming logic.
Vendor selection- Determining which vendor to partner with for your software solution doesn’t just come down to product and price. One of the most important considerations is the ongoing relationship once the deal has been done. Gaining references from sites that already use the solution can be invaluable. Also understand the support inclusions. What support is included in the agreement? Is the vendor supporting you from another country or another state? If so this may impact on hours of support.
Project Planning- Project planning will set the foundation for a successful implementation and ensures everyone has transparency over the key aspects of the project. Important considerations are understanding timings, resource availability, risks, measures of project success and project budget.
System Setup- Almost all software solutions need to be setup to cater for the specific requirements of the organisation.
Data Migration- How much historical data would you ideally like to import into the new solution? What benefit might it bring you to look back on this data.
System Testing- Now that the data has been imported, is everything calculating as it should?
User Training- Different people learn in different ways and at a different pace. Understanding that, and by being flexible in the approach to training can be beneficial.
Cut Over- The solution has been procured and setup, data imported, staff trained, now it’s time for D-Day. The cutover or Go Live. In can all feel a little daunting like stepping out over a cliff but if all necessary steps have been taken through the process then this should be a relatively seamless part of the process.
Go Live support- Having support for the Go Live can give you added security and a semi-expert on hand to answer any questions as they arise.
System documentation- When all else fails it’s great to be able to revert to a manual, or online help. Where workflows are specific to the organisation then drafting business process models will help all staff to have transparency over the whole process.