When the time comes for a new business management system, choosing the software is often the easiest task. The implementation is the more complicated piece, and it’s not unusual for system issues to arise – issues you can avoid if you have the right information before going forward with a software implementation project.
To that end, we at Sapphire Systems have asked clients who have been through the implementation process to offer advice to those who are just beginning.
These are the most common hints and tips offered by our clients:
Do your research
While we said that choosing the product is often the easiest task of an implementation, we by no means meant that it wasn’t a task to be taken seriously. Before you choose a system, do your research. Know what you want to achieve with new software and approach your search with that in mind. Arrange interviews with vendors, ask questions, run tests to ensure that all the business processes you want to change can adapt to the new system and evolve with it. You can even consult your peers for advice, although we don’t advocate just taking their word for it. The husband of the managing partner at Fusion Floral, for example, recommended SAP Business One for the company’s system upgrade, but she spent time looking at other products before deciding for herself that SAP Business One was right for her business.
Know what you’re trying to achieve
Implementing a system that could affect multiple employees in every department of your business requires a well-thought-out, solidified knowledge of what you want to achieve. Specificity is key – which areas, processes, procedures, etc. require improvement, what are their exact problems, and what will it look like when those problems are fixed? Knowing what you need from a solution is just part of the battle; choosing a solution that does what you need, doesn’t cause more problems, and integrates with your other software is another part of the battle.
Take as much time as you can in the planning stage
You may feel pressured to integrate a new system quickly, but don’t succumb to that pressure. The planning stage is not to be taken lightly. Schedule more time than you think you’ll need to create your system design document. Be realistic and keep it as simple as possible without compromising your objectives. Work closely with your reseller to map out an implementation plan – you should know what will happen in each stage, how long each stage will take, and what stage comes next. It’s critical that you prepare resources in advance for the next stage, as this will keep you both on time and on budget; you should also create a buffer zone to compensate for possible delays. Then, before you finalize everything, ask for feedback from others who will be involved in the project.
Decide what modules you need in addition to the ‘off the shelf product’
All systems have an ‘off the shelf’ standard solution that is compatible with most businesses in most industries. The systems then also offer add-on modules that allow you to customize the software for your specific business needs. Choose modules that will enhance the off the shelf solution and, even more importantly, choose modules that will integrate/collaborate with your other systems to prevent data and process gaps or delays.
Make sure you have the right support to go with the system
Knowing what you need, choosing a system, choosing modules, and carefully planning the implementation stages are only half the battle of a system implementation. The other half is having the right support system in place should anything go wrong. This includes an upper management team that’s fully on board with the implementation, a good reseller with adequate resources, and a strong implementation team.
Don’t forget internal resources
Implementing a new business management system can be daunting, and the time, money and effort required is not minimal. You should be 100% sure you have the resources necessary to commit that effort and to follow through with every step of the implementation and ensure its success. Some clients assign new roles specifically for the implementation to ensure constant forward momentum; Norkem highlights the need to have internal staff on board with, and ready for, the change. In addition, creating a training schedule to teach employees how to utilize the software to its full potential is an essential part of both getting them on board and using the system successfully after implementation.
Remember: buy cheap, buy twice
When it comes to identifying a system, The Gro Company suggests that you don’t cut corners on the product, support, or training. In terms of the software solution, investing more initially will benefit you in the long run. A solution that will grow with you, and a reseller with strong knowledge of their product and who offers global support, might cost more in the beginning, but the ROI and the ability to scale with ease will make that investment well worth it. One of our clients found that the software paid for itself within a year – including training, licenses, and equipment. If you skimp on the software, you might end up with a failed implementation and find yourself in the position of having to research and choose another option.
Ensure that your data represents your business
There’s a saying: ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ Basically, no matter how good your chosen solution is, or how well the implementation went, it won’t be effective if your internal data is corrupt or incorrect. The intelligence in your data structures must represent your business accurately, so be sure to sort out related issues as much as possible before migrating the data into a new system.
To find out more about how you can properly prepare for integrating a new solution, join our next Software Selection and Implementation Masterclass Webinar.
One of our team will be in touch shortly.