For the next several weeks we will be taking a look at the right way to perform a business management system implementation. This week, in part one of our series, we will specifically look at project organization and the preparation necessary to ensure success.
Once you have determined that you have a problem or opportunity you would like to resolve, and have chosen the solution that best fits your needs, you are ready to begin implementation of your new system. (If you have not yet done these things, you may be interested in reading our previous blogs on:
- Steps to Take Before You Change Business Management Software
- How to Choose a Business Management System
- Choosing the Right VAR for your Business Software Implementation
Once you are ready to implement the software you have selected, in partnership with the VAR of your choice, it’s time to make a plan. You’ll likely feel at this time that you are excited and happy with your decision. Everything looks rosy. If your VAR is like us, he/she will have told you that implementations are a lot of work and there will be times when you wonder why you began this seemingly impossible task. You may even hate the software and the VAR at various times during the process. (Typically this is when you are doing double or triple duty because someone critical to the project had a family emergency or you are at the end of a 16 hour day.)
Your project will have several stages. Make sure you understand the purpose of each stage before beginning so that you maximize your results at each stage. You may actually cycle back through these phases if your project is very complex or if you discover issues that make you rethink your direction.
You can categorize your next steps into one of several phases: Preparation, Configuration, Testing & Training, Go-Live, Follow-up and Support. Each phase has its own unique challenges and opportunities. Don’t get impatient and charge ahead to the next phase until you are ready.
If we go back to our house building story, this is the seemingly long period between deciding to do something and actually seeing some building happening. By this time, although you have covered a great deal of this phase, you must now consider the internal preparations of your hardware, network, printed forms and other foundational items.
I hope that you introduced your hardware/network vendor to your software VAR long before now; but if you have not, do so now. They have a lot to talk about, and it will affect your pocketbook. Your software VAR should have very definite ideas about the best configuration of the network, servers and database. These may clash with the hardware vendor’s concepts. It is important to iron these out before going forward. Try to get a layman’s description of the issue so that you can provide your input. You do not want to be in the middle of a finger-pointing match. These vendors will have to work together at several stages during the implementation; and afterward, for as long as you use each vendor (we prefer the words, Business Partner, because each vendor is vital to the success of your business system).
We worked with a client who had a very close relationship with their hardware/network provider. This hardware/network provider recommended a virtual server with SATA drives for their SQL server. That configuration was a definite No-No at that time (SATA drives still are—those hard drives are for personal computers, not servers). We had a clash of concepts. The hardware vendor won. After several months of use, the system began to develop data problems that were worse during high usage times. The server was unable to keep up with the volume of transactions and seemed to be mixing up data. Unfortunately, the client “went silent” on the solution and just calls us to fix the symptoms, rather than fix the problem.
Good relationships and open dialogue can save you significant grief as your system comes to production.
You may have other suppliers or vendors to introduce to your VAR. These may include your bank for Electronic Funds Transfers; vendors and customers for Electronic Data Exchange software (EDI); your Web developers if you integrate your Web store; your payroll vendor; your CPA and so on. You must introduce anyone whose data affects your system or whose system you want to update with your data.
Stay tuned for our next article in this series where we will take an in depth look at the planning phase of a business system implementation.
In the meantime, you may be interested in reading a real-world example of a properly implemented business management software system and how it greatly improved our client’s profitability.