How to Successfully Implement a New Business System
I am sitting in a hotel room in Southern California on a beautiful, sunny day and the surfer’s are catching waves. Why aren’t I outside enjoying the beautiful weather? Well, I came here for an 11:00am business meeting but along the way I received a call that my meeting was canceled. The organizer’s plane had engine trouble and landed in Grand Junction, Colorado. I was wondering what I should do for 4 hours.
That got me thinking about implementations. Why, because every implementation has its own delays and changes. Many times, there are delays with the implementations because interdependent tasks are not completed on a timely basis or are delayed because of the amount of work involved. When this happens, the whole project may suffer a delay. However, if the project manager is on top of things, they will have a list of other, non-dependent tasks to be completed so progress can continue.
Implementing a new system is made up of many small tasks
Many of these tasks are interdependent and sequential. Other tasks are parallel and can be done alongside other tasks. The challenge is to know which is which and how best to intermix the two. Many times, the whole project goes through what feels like starts and stops. For example, with the implementations of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (formerly NAV), one of the foundational tasks is establishing a chart of accounts and Dimensions for business and financial analytics. Many companies have a chart of accounts that will work well, but most need to digest the flexibility of Dimensions. (Dimensions are values that you can add to all transactions to facilitate business analysis and reporting. Example: you can use Dimensions to evaluate information from sales transactions plus general expenses like advertising, telemarketing or direct mail expenses to evaluate the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.)
You can do a few tasks in parallel, but defining Dimensions is a primary task and must be completed before beginning other areas. (Customers, Items, Vendors, GL accounts all can use Dimensions, so you need to define Dimensions before you create these records.) However, before you can determine what these dimensions values will be, you must define your business objectives.
You can complete your business analysis of various departments in parallel. However, when the analysis is completed, there is a bottleneck. The bottleneck is the compilation of the objectives and requirements in the foundational document. This is where all other decisions will be made during your implementation. Once you have completed this document, you can begin developing the Dimensions necessary to analyze your business objectives.
Sand through the hourglass
Imagine your project as several cups full of sand that you must put through a special device. The device is made up of several hour glasses glued together and standing on end. The top hourglass has no cover. You pour sand in until the bowl is full. The sand represents your business requirements and the details you must develop and bring together in order to determine what ERP functions or method of implementation will be best for you. Another cup of sand is all the tasks and training you must do prior to going live. The compilation of this data is the bottleneck. There are ways to make this bottleneck larger. However, since all the objectives and requirements are part of one contiguous system, they must be harmonized for the system to work together. After the sand flows through the bottleneck, it flows into the larger open area.
Imagine a plate with many holes in it, much like a sieve, separating the bottom of the first hour-glass from the top of the second hourglass. This plate represents tasks to be done in parallel. However on the other side of the plate, there is another bottleneck. This bottleneck is typically testing. Once testing is completed, you now are pouring sand into the open bowl again, followed by another plate with holes and then another bottleneck. The bottleneck this time is all the work that must be done in the hours prior to going live. By planning correctly, much of the work you’ve done in previous steps will simplify and streamline the tasks to complete before going live. If you haven’t, this is a huge bottleneck and your implementation will suffer.
Utilizing time when our progress slows because of a bottleneck
Obviously, we want to keep all restrictions from the bottleneck to maximize flow. However, the real magic is in moving sand from one bowl to the next without going through the bottleneck. One method of doing so is to develop a system that formalizes training during the bottleneck. This could be reviewing online documentation, or a formal classroom training or process and workflow testing. With a good schedule, these times allow people to internalize the new software and be ready for the next step in that process.
Develope the list in the analysis phase
The trick is to develop this task list during the business analysis process of the implementation. List the business tasks that require that you use the software to develop your workflow. Use this list to prioritize your training or testing time. The real benefit in this process is when you get past the bottleneck. At this point you can move the whole process forward because you understand the software better and are quicker at spotting issues.
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