Top 5 Tips for a Successful System Implementation

Posted: 19/06/2020

Sadly, system implementations either fail to deliver or fail to meet the stated business goals and objectives. These top 5 tips are the attributes of successful system implementations.

1. Understand the business outcomes that need to be achieved

Having a clear articulation of the business outcomes to be achieved through the system implementation (hopefully, in a business case) is a great start. This includes understanding the business processes that need to be managed by the new system.

To assist with this, ask the following questions:

  • What are the current gaps, bottlenecks and issues being experienced?
  • What does a successful system implementation look like?
  • Can our current processes meet this need, or do they require a new system to help meet the outcomes

2. Embed stakeholder engagement and set expectations

It is important to understand the entire eco-system that is likely to be impacted by the system change. What are the issues being experienced, and what are the expectations of each stakeholder group?

You must look upstream and downstream and even laterally to identify all stakeholders.  What are the success factors for these groups? How will you engage them to make sure their requirements are included, and they are kept up to date?

The key stakeholder group should be the Project Board. Ideally, the Board is made up of stakeholders who are directly affected by the outcome of the system implementation.  They need to be authorised to make decisions impacting resources, funding, time and direction.  The Board must make strategic and tactical decisions if required to achieve the best outcome possible.  Too often, project boards do not make these decisions and leave them to, at best, the business sponsor and sometimes the project team.

3. Select the right system, supplier and project manager

Too many system implementation projects fail because poor decisions have been made in the system and vendor selection process. There are two primary risk areas. The first is that organisations tend to expect the software provider to run the implementation project.  However, experience tells us that organisations with good software products are not necessarily good project managers.  The use of skilled internal or third-party project teams with well-defined methodology and governance can control and direct internal and software company resources delivers to deliver far superior results.

The second area of risk is where the assessment criteria and decision-making methodology have not been set.  Kepner Tregoe’s Decision Analysis method is the one that I have used the most in my career.  It is really not important which method you use so long as you clearly define your assessment criteria, which should include your functional criteria (weighted for criticality), non-functional technical criteria and supplier capability and reputation.  Price is always a factor but how important is it?  How will you assess value for money? And always check references.

The assessment of each vendor submission should also include an assessment of the advantages and risks of working with that system and supplier.  The cheapest is not always the worst and the most expensive is not always the best.  Perhaps, most importantly, have a documented assessment methodology and approach reduces risk and ensures that you have at least made a considered judgement and taken all reasonable care in coming to your decision.

4. Project management

If this is an important system, then please don’t think that you can run a successful project with business-as-usual staff in the critical project roles.  So often projects are delayed because key contributors and decision-makers are unavailable due to operational reasons. The key people must, as far as possible, be fully available to the project.

Also, project management professionals must be running the project. This is a key skill, and to be successful, you need projects to be managed by skilled and experienced project managers that are ideally following a defined project methodology that is right for your organisation.

Governance and communication are critical elements of a successful project. The value of an engaged and empowered project team and Board will go a long way to enabling a successful system implementation.

5. Embedding the change and realising the benefits

This is, without doubt, the missing element in so many system implementations.  Once the system is implemented, and the project team has gone, now what?  To be frank, this is where the organisation needs to start realising the value of the project.  This is where laser focus must be directed towards achieving the benefits described in the business case.

Too often, organisations slip back into what they know and where are they are comfortable and do not embrace the change that the new system has brought.  Too often, this aspect of a project is not funded, and the burden falls to operational staff who are not experienced or skilled at organisational change management.

To ensure that the desired changes are embedded, and benefits are realised the following should be considered:

  • Clear, measurable KPIs of the change should be established, measured and reported
  • A product owner role should be established to champion the new solution including system and process
  • Ensure that all staff have been trained, that documentation is available and of a suitable quality, ensure that new staff are trained
  • Ensure that business and technical support are in place
  • Establish user forums with your stakeholder groups to discuss adoption, issues, barriers, system enhancements, etc.

Need help planning and implementing a new system? Call us today on 1800 870 677 to find out how you can ensure successful implementation where change happens.