10 Steps to Smoother System Selection and Implementation

Systems selection and implementation is serious business, and no one wants to make an already complex process more difficult or more costly. Over the years, we’ve determined some principles to follow during an implementation project that will significantly improve the chances of success for all parties concerned. There may not be any absolute guarantees, but following these 10 proven principles will help smooth the way for your next implementation project.

1. Adhere to a well-disciplined, proven methodology for selection and implementation.

2. Have executive management buy in and sign off at various points. We have learned that if we do not document the decisions and progress of the project and report on a regular basis to executive management, business decisions and changes in the scope of the original project may conflict with what management has in mind. Consistent, objective status reporting may bring to light issues that the vendor or the project team may have neglected to communicate with management.

3. Perform thorough and proper due diligence to ensure a close fit between your business requirements and the application you have selected. Be sure to include a low number of modifications and clearly define interfaces and data conversion issues.

4. When you discover serious discrepancies, it’s better to change the business process to fit the system, where realistic, rather than modify the system heavily. Modifications result in higher costs, risks, and potential delay of the implementation. We have learned that, unlike e-commerce software models, a so-called fully customizable solution is not necessarily the best fit for many businesses.

We used to advocate modifying applications to be more in line with the business, but it is better to make sure that the system’s business process can really be adopted by the company. We learned that modifications and complex integrations are risky and expensive and can cause serious delays. Often modifications turn out to be unnecessary once the new system is fully understood by the new users.

5. Demand that the internal project manager and the vendor project manager be well disciplined and organized. We have learned that we need to help support our client company with these tasks. There have been instances where a project has suffered because the client’s project manager was not well organized or capable of multitasking and keeping the project team up to date.

6. Select a direct-to-customer system that can support features and functions in the intended marketplace (appropriate sales channels, application integrations, SKU numbering, etc).

7. Adhere to a well-defined project plan and timeline that suits both vendor and client, making sure to a lot sufficient time for each task without jeopardizing the project. Appropriate status reporting is crucial for monitoring the overall progress of each task.

8. Make sure you have a fair and well-defined, detailed negotiated contract including statement of work, pricing for hardware, software licenses, modifications, training, file conversion, etc.

9. Require budget approval of estimates and of any change in scope prior to the work performed.

10. Although difficult to quantify, good chemistry between client, vendors, and consultants is important to the success of systems selection and implementation.

Curt Barry is president of Richmond, VA-based operations consultancy F. Curtis Barry & Co. For more on F. Curtis Barry & Co, visit www.fcbco.com

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