Investing In Major Technology? Don’t Miss These Steps
It’s the Least Glamorous Steps That Are Often the Most Important
Cutting-edge projects often fail due to mistakes in critical implementation steps
7 key steps for success in implementing a new system or technology
- Define the Strategic Objectives – Collaboratively define and widely communicate the measurable objectives of the effort. In the face of inevitable challenges and tough choices, leaders can use these high-level goals to guide decision-making.
- Gather Business Needs – Capture a master inventory of business needs prioritized by the extent to which they align to and enable the fulfillment of the strategic objectives.
- Document Requirements – Well-articulated requirements translate your strategic objectives and business needs into action items for the development team.
- Establish Milestones – A documented project plan with the established milestones allows for monitoring and measuring execution along a realistic timeline.
- Testing – Testing is the implementation phase most likely to be scaled back to meet time constraints, but it is crucial in order to avoid costly refactoring later.
- Business Readiness – Staff education plans, contingency/back-out plans, go live checklists, communication and escalation plans all support an orderly and effective implementation, avoiding negative impacts to operations and the customer experience.
- Post-Implementation Monitoring – A post-mortem evaluation on the results of the project provides a treasure-trove of essential information. Did you meet your strategic objectives? Is the system performing as you expected? If not, what will you do differently next time?
Each of these steps is necessary for a successful outcome. Many organizations use steps 1–4 effectively, but cut corners in the testing, business readiness and post-implementation monitoring phases. This often happens when project resources are reassigned after implementation.
In this post, we will go into greater detail on the three commonly compressed or skipped steps. Understanding how these steps support successful implementation will help prioritize your organization’s resources to get maximum value from every major project.
Three commonly missed steps that cause implementations to fail:
1. Testing Reduces Risk
No matter how well the project is planned and executed, there will always be defects that require resolution. Build testing resources and time into the plan as part of the business requirements. Incomplete testing introduces risks including financial loss, poor user adoption and reduced customer satisfaction.
Critical elements to include in your Testing phase:
- Execute the test plan with a variety of user types. The development team and SMEs with the requisite experience to catch a wide range of possible issues are vital to conducting successful testing but should not be the only parties engaged.
- Involve additional user groups. Include newer or less skilled users, and (for customer-facing applications) your customers. Their fresh perspectives often provide valuable insight.
- Don’t just identify errors—prioritize them. Document and manage all defects, but give priority attention to critical issues that would preclude going live. Defect prioritization and management will assist in achieving project timelines while limiting risk to known, lower impact defects.
2. Business Readiness Makes the Most of Your Investment
A project may be perfectly designed and tested, but it’s worthless if the people who are expected to use it aren’t ready for it. The business readiness phase is an opportunity to build team skills and consensus around the value of full adoption.
Critical elements to include in your Business Readiness phase:
- Training is essential. Ensure success with training that is comprehensive, targeted to the recipients, and led by skilled professionals. Otherwise you risk frustrated users becoming disengaged, sharing frustrations with your customers or leaving altogether.
- Communicate the initial strategic vision broadly. Implementing a new system often necessitates a new mindset among front-line staff. By addressing the “Why,” the team will be more accepting of the “How.”
- Embrace change. Putting too much effort into minimizing disruption can defeat the purpose of implementing a new system in the first place. Modify and optimize existing processes to best meet the strategic objectives outlined at the start.
- Keep track of responsibilities.
- Document your escalation plan. What vendors will need to be available at what points during the implementation? Who should be on site? Who should be on stand-by? What senior leaders need to be kept informed?
- Document and test your contingency/back-out plan.
3. Post-Implementation Monitoring Prepares for Future Success
Monitoring after implementation ensures strategic objectives are being met. If they are not, you will identify necessary changes or course corrections in a timely manner and maximize the likelihood of success of subsequent projects.
Critical elements to include in your Post-Implementation phase:
- Gauge stakeholder satisfaction to understand if the new system is considered a success. Stakeholders should include your customers, affected staff, and leadership.
- Continue support post-implementation. Keep the staff and resources that were available to prepare for implementation in place long enough to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
- Analyze the outcomes of your strategic objectives. How is the new system performing against the quantifiable goals you established at the onset of implementation? If those goals are not being met, what is the root cause? Leverage the results of your analysis to introduce change when needed.
- Assess the costs of the new system. This does not simply include the direct costs associated with development and implementation. Cost analysis must also factor in the ongoing costs, including additions to staff.
- Define controls and maintain them post implementation. This will ensure that there are early warning signs to any issues that may develop, allowing quick identification and resolution.
Get the Support You Need to Optimize Your Implementation Process
Businesses that understand the significant financial, reputational and often commercial risk of poorly planned and executed implementations want to take steps to avoid them. It helps to have trusted advisors with expertise in efficient planning, issue identification, and course correction.
Bridgeforce has been called on by some of the top names in the industry to provide guidance and support in all of the phases described. We are laser focused on delivering success for your business in a quick and resourceful way and we are very proud of our achievements in this area.
Whether you feel you have an issue right now or you want to ensure you are prepared for the future, the time to invest is now.