Implementation Assistance

Anytime a company has to change their systems in one way or the other, there is a lot of work that goes into that process if it is done properly.  Granted that a small change may not warrant as much planning and effort as a large change, but the basics should be there for any significant change.  Typically, the critical steps for a well planned change would be as follows:

A.     Assemble the Team

  • The proper implementation team is critical for a successful project.
  • Team size will range based upon the specific project as well as budgetary constraints.
  • Team composition should be “holistic” in approach, comprised of IT professionals and business owners from areas in scope to help ensure proper subject matter experts are deployed.  Of course, Internal Audit should be involved as well.

B.       Project Definition and Planning

  • Clarify the project’s scope and goals at the outset of the implementation process.
  • Determine which processes identified during the selection of the software are to be addressed during the implementation including specific individual phases.
  • A clear scope of work is critical to maintain focus upon the goals for the implementation and to combat the potentially ever present “scope creep”.

C.      Clarify Reporting Requirements

  • Hopefully done as part of the selection process, defining reporting (and output) needs provides a clear roadmap for how a system must be configured.
  • If system output is not specifically clarified, the result may be limited use of the application’s functionality and unsatisfied users because of improperly configured business demographics or limited security access.

D.      Data Flow and Mapping

  • Again, hopefully this has been done in the selection process but key sources for data inputs and flows need to be identified as well as their eventual outputs.
  • Care should be taken to identify data requiring additional controls such as those containing confidential personal, health, financial and other protected information.
  • Data fields should be mapped from the old system to the new system with any gaps being identified.

E.      Integration Strategy

  • If designed and built properly, integrations from the new system to other applications can greatly streamline work processes, improve data integrity, reduce costs, and improve the system’s ROI.
  • As the new application goes in, an integration strategy should be used to ensure the proper placement of the new system with those that are already existing or will be replaced over time.

F.     Data Migration

  • Define the data to be migrated and “clean” this information to ensure that required data is not missing or in the wrong fields in the old system versus new system requirements.
  • With proper mapping techniques and planning, today’s data structures and technologies allow for smooth transitions from existing systems to the new.
  • Time the transition of data migrations to prevent outages and other issues.

G.      Testing

  • Testing should be performed throughout the implementation process. Each key step should have a testing and validation step to ensure issues have been properly addressed.
  • Most people are skeptical or cautious when learning a new system.  A system that has not been thoroughly tested prior to being released has a high risk of not being accepted by the users.
  • Remember Microsoft’s initial release of Vista?

H.     Training

  • Training can be performed throughout the implementation process.
  • The new system only has one chance for a first impression.  Make sure it has been thoroughly tested, runs properly and that all instructors are competent to train.
  • If possible, real life data should be used to train end users since this will be more comfortable for the users.  Having a new look and feel to software is easier when users see recognizable data.

I.    Pilot

  • A very successful technique to identify errors or necessary changes is the use of a “pilot” project.
  • Identify a representative process, unit or location to initially test the software.
  • The feedback received and the responsiveness in addressing issues raised during the pilot is critical for ensuring the success of a new software implementation.

J.      Rollout

  •  Once installed, configured, tested, users are trained, and the pilot(s) are complete, system rollout can begin.
  • Companies should ensure they have the proper resources to address initial support issues that are common during the rollout stage.   It will set the tone for the acceptance of the new system.
  • Backfilling of current roles may be required during this phase.

 

Clark Schaefer Consulting provides assistance to our clients throughout all these steps knowing that each step has its own risks as well as identifiable controls that should be present to offset those risks.  The following are some signs that might indicate you could benefit from 3rd party assistance:

Project Related Signs

Team Related Signs

a.       Slipped or missed deadlines.

b.      Repeatedly doing project tasks in the wrong order or ignoring key project tasks altogether.

c.       Coordination of project team is proving to be harder and taking longer.

d.      Conflict such as internal politics, vested interests, or departments slowing process down.

e.       Unable to produce a (decent) requirements specification.

a.       Project team member inaction due to other workloads or making excuses for not doing allotted tasks.

b.      Loss of key project personnel either temporarily or permanently.

c.       The project team is hesitating or confused as to what to do next in the project.

d.      Over dominance or influence of one or more individuals or groups who do not always act in the best interests of the project.

e.       Morale and/or enthusiasm is dropping.

IT Related Signs

User Related Signs

a.       IT taking the lead when users should be driving the project.

b.      IT continually suggesting requirement changes for the new software, when the users should be doing this.

c.       IT wants to deploy their own preference for technologies rather than submitting to the recommended solutions from the vendor.

d.      IT seeks to get “experience” during the project (e.g. new technologies, skills)

a.       Users are losing interest and enthusiasm for the project.

b.      Requirements are constantly changing and/or new requirements keep emerging after sign off.

c.       System requirements and other deadlines for sign off are delayed by users or departmental management.

d.      User department personnel assigned to the team keep changing.

Business Related Signs

External Related Signs

a.       During the project, new management desires to take time to review whether the software is actually the right one for their area.

b.      Unforeseen business or company changes occur such as mergers, acquisitions, restructures, etc…

c.       Financial changes force budgetary adjustments for the project.

d.      Primary project sponsor departs the company.

a.       The new system has just been replaced with another one by the vendor.

b.      The technologies being deployed are no longer supported.

c.       Significant recession or adverse financial situation may prompt a need to reduce expenditures.

d.      Vendor of choice has gone out of business or has been purchased by another company.

Whatever the need, Clark Schaefer Consulting will be glad to assist you and your organization to help ensure that your new system is implemented in a timely and economical manner with a minimum of problems. 

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A regional CPA consulting practive serving elite and emerging companies with practical solutions in finance, control, and technology. Offering a compelling alternative to national accounting and consulting firms, executing strategies and delivering results. We dedicate intellect, methodologies, and resources to ensure your success. A virtual extension of your department to enhance your capabilities and capacity.
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