The majority of organizations when asked about their satisfaction level from their computer software systems indicate that they are less than happy. Why do then most companies get caught in this syndrome and what can you do to either prevent this from happening or take control and change it?
There are three important stages to creating dramatic business results with your software systems:
Identify and document your business challenges and requirements by interviewing your staff on various organization levels. Unless you have an individual inside your organization who is unbiased and has the talent and skills set of doing such interviews, I recommend you hire an expert to do that. In addition, consider soliciting feedback from other companies inside and outside your industry that have gone through such process and documenting successful tips and traps to avoid. The next step in the selection process is to review recommended software solutions and evaluate how their software will resolve your needs and goals. Not only should you discuss each item on your list, but make sure you are convinced that the software can accomplish all your requirements. You most likely will identify items that the software is unable to address. You then need to conclude whether this item is not a critical enough and can be eliminated from your list, or if this item needs be developed through programming efforts into the software or if it is serious enough to start looking for another software partner.
This is the stage where prior planning yields the best results. The planning stage should outline the who, what and how regarding software installation, staff training, testing new logic and new printed paperwork, data conversion, parallel if necessary and timing schedules. The implementation stage is divided into pre-live vs. post-live date. The key challenge with the pre-live date is to make sure that you concurrently can focus on running your business while implementing and learning a new software solution. What I found to be most successful in this stage is to setup tight schedules and responsibilities and not drag it too long. 60 to 90 days should be more than sufficient for major software implementation projects if planned correctly. Setup an environment where your staff can easily access both systems so they are able to conduct their regular business while practicing their new learned knowledge and “homework”. The key challenge with the post-live date is making sure that your software partner is available both on-site and off-site to address questions and challenges for some period of time which varies for different organizations depending the complexity of the project and the internal skill sets. If your selection, planning and implementation stages are close to perfect, the “surprises” during implementation and especially after live date will be minimal if any. If such surprises that impact your operation and the success of the project do come up, it is your software business partner that holds the critical role of resolving such issues. This resolution is often times the recommendation of the proper ways of solving the challenge with the software or possibly enhancing the software to resolve the challenge. Hopefully the latter is not frequent or I would question the success of the selection process.
This is the stage where you are actually utilizing your software to not only conduct your day-to-day business requirements but you are able to make critical decisions to help you dramatically improve your business with software and data intelligence. This stage should be looked at as an evolving process that continues indefinitely. The best results I have seen among organizations is through ongoing training of staff to better take advantage of the software and its applicability to business challenges, implementing new software update releases and when necessary integrate with new solutions. A good example may be that after the implementation of the software to run your business you have decided to go the next level and integrate Internet technologies to make it easier to do business with you from your customers and suppliers perspective. Better training of your staff will yield improved results through better customer service while incorporating newer technologies to interface with your other systems.
The secret is that unless all three components are fully integrated and interconnected, the likelihood of success for your company is minimal. Please notice on the chart above that it is only in the interconnect of all three circles (stages) which is number 4 on the chart, where you will gain the best results for your company.