business-management-system-implementationWith any business management system implementation, you will undoubtedly face many challenges. The best way to rise above them is to be prepared. To this end we are providing you with a couple of the most common; as well as what you can do to move through them as effectively as possible.

Fear of Change

There might also be resistance or reluctance to change.  There will be times of great apprehension, especially in the last week before you go-live.  No one likes change.  You or your VAR must encourage people to share these feelings.  Generally, more training and familiarity with the new software will change these feelings.

Some people will express a great deal of negativity.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Have the person fully explain his concern.  Many times just doing so will clear the air and the problem will not come up again.  This is especially true when you or your VAR can say, “We have considered this issue and when we get to this issue in the implementation, we want your input to make sure we have addressed this issue properly.”  (Make sure that you follow through.)

We find that most people in our clients’ organizations are dedicated to the success of the company.  They are hard-working and want their company to succeed.  While they may not understand everything that drives profit, they want to make sure that they are doing their part to help the company meet its objectives.  Recognition of this will go a long way to smoothing out some of the bumps.

Sure, you may have a small percentage of your staff that doesn’t feel that way, but most of your staff does.  You may have some people who love the old system and don’t want to change.  Address this now.  My comment during the kick-off meeting is that we expect everyone will be doing his or her best to make the new system succeed.  Our commitment, as a VAR, is to the success of the business.  We have seen sabotage, sometimes deliberate, sometimes unintentional.  Our job is to do what we can do to assure the success of the project, and we don’t tolerate people who refuse to participate in success.  With this introduction to the project, everyone has a clear expectation and we rarely see a problem.

Workload and scheduling

During an implementation you and your staff may experience work and energy overload.  Learning new things can be very stressful.  You will have to work through misunderstandings.  Your understanding of various features of the new business management system may be wrong or, at least, flawed.  Just because something seems logical to you, don’t expect the system to use the same logic.  It won’t.  There will be things that you will discover that just seem “stupid”.  Other things may seem to be clumsy.  Yet other things will be inadequate.  Be clear on your objective and determine the best method or work-around to accomplish your objective.  Your VAR should be able to help you through this.

Have your staff and budget prepared for some heavy workloads.  New systems testing can be time consuming.  Consider how you will deal with these heavy workloads.  Can you hire temporary workers?  Are there some tasks that you can postpone?   Are you initiating multiple projects at the same time that are competing for resources?  Which one can you delay?

While you are doing your planning, you must consider vacations and other planned absences.  Having a critical employee gone during the planning or testing will delay the whole project.  Include these interruptions into your timeline.  While you are at it, plan some slack into your timeline to deal with unexpected problems.  Something will go wrong at an inopportune time.

Make sure that you clearly communicate the implementation schedule.  And repeat it frequently.  Many times, people forget, or didn’t listen the first time.  You may need to set some blackout periods when you will not authorize time-off or vacations.  Make these announcements early.  Your preparation will help ensure the project isn’t delayed by a key person’s absence.

Most people are willing to put in the extra time and effort it takes to learn the new business management system and to test the new system, even while doing their normal duties.  You may need to hire some temporary workers.  You may need to relax some requirements to your internal customers (never to your external customers) for a short time while the new system comes on-line.  Plan these times in and remember the plan when in the heat of the implementation.

Milestones

One note on Project Management and timelines – be wary of Lump milestones.  This frequently occurs in programming or file conversions.  Let’s say you are converting master files.  Let’s say today is March 1 and the files are due in your office on April 1st.  If you don’t see intermediate steps (Customer file, March 5; Vendor file – March 12, etc.) you will not have a way of judging the progress.  The Project Manager should break this down into weekly, if not daily task assignments. Then each business day the Project Manager can determine how much progress each person or department made.  Expect to get weekly progress reports.  Use this same principle for your internal work.