Recently I was asked by a user group to present on the success factors for selecting and implementing a new financial or operational system. This is the list my team and users we consulted came up with. It’s not exhaustive but we believe these factors have proven over time to be integral for successful projects.
1. Know your environment
Look to the future, understand the challenges and forces of disruption that will impact your market and customers.
2. Requirement analysis
Be prepared to challenge the status quo, don’t accept that what we currently do is best practice (it rarely is) or otherwise why would you be considering changing?
3. Establish your success criteria early
What are the outcomes you want and how will these be measured?
Financial measures such as return on investment or cost reductions are too narrow as they ignore the strategic outcomes such as delivering on your strategy, aligning the organisation, reducing process time and creating an agile and innovative organisation need to be top of mind. Your success criteria serve as leading indicators that will allow you to meet the forces of disruption head on and create a framework for decision making during the project.
4. Right People
Get the right people on the bus, be democratic but ensure they have the authority to make things happen and are not sitting in the past with blinkers on. Too often we have seen projects derailed by operational staff who use their social power as a handbrake on change.
5. Build and ensure that management buy in is a given
Management set the tone and the values that the project inherits and their active support is essential.
6. Governance – give it real meaning and purpose
It’s more than risk management. You need to ensure that roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are documented and live through how decisions are made and executed.
7. Deep dive on possible solutions early
Research, research, research. Identify the possible solutions early, look for providers who are in your market already. There is nothing wrong with imitation if it doesn’t duplicate the mistakes of the past. Ensure that vendors are on a known platform, practice open architecture, have a well-defined API methodology and that upgrades and new releases can be handled seamlessly. Evaluate your infrastructure options and inform yourself as to the merits or otherwise of a cloud solution.
8. Limit the number of vendors that you invite
Building on your research identify those top three solutions or vendors that are right for you. Any more than three vendors or solutions is asking too much of your decision process. Five if you must but no more.
Our experience has been that more than three vendors confuses the selection panel and is unnecessary as at the base level of matching vendors against your business requirements most vendors if selected correctly will be within 2-3% compliance of each other. Contrary to most selection processes it’s not about selecting the best vendor or solution it’s about eliminating the others so the one you have left is the best.
At each stage of the selection process seek to eliminate one of the vendors. Upon receipt of the vendor proposals and in the first stage of selection you are seeking to match your business requirements to the vendor’s solution. Notwithstanding the closeness of their responses try to eliminate one vendor.
At the presentation stage where vendors are providing details as to how their solution will meet your needs you need to control the agenda, keep the sales stuff hidden, develop scenarios, score quickly and eliminate. The best outcomes have been those that after the presentations have only one preferred vendor.
10. Reference hard
On your preferred vendor, only. Focus on how the vendor implemented their solution, how conflict was resolved, the scope and breadth of any change orders and what vendor staff were involved and what were their strengths and weaknesses. The skills and competencies of better than average project managers and consultants are from twice to four times more effective than average or poor consultants. Ask for and demand the vendors “A” team.
11. Resource Project with your stars
Over 60% of the effort and cost of a project is down to internal resources. You need your stars, those that can deliver and without these and management support your success rate is close to zero. Act early, replace your stars if necessary with temporary staff. Without this commitment, your ability to deliver the project outcomes will be jeopardised.
12. Manage Variations
There are three project variables that need to be managed, scope, time and cost.
- Managing scope requires effort upfront to determine your requirements and proper governance during the project to limit scope creep.
- Cost is a function of your internal and external costs mainly labour which are best managed through having the best resources, be they internal or external.
- Time is aligned to decision making, management buy in and elimination and most importantly a sense of urgency that needs to pervade the project as you constantly seek to achieve the outcomes in the required time line.
Lastly, remember, commercial applications in finance and CRM have been selected and implemented by thousands of clients. Failure is rarely the fault of the selected system but more often a lack of skill, competency or maturity within the organisation. From our experience and that of our client’s success is more easily achieved by following these success factors.
This post was written by Jonathan Martin, COO at Evolution Business Systems.
His expertise extends to software development, support, implementations and project management, he can envisage potential problems and identify them to improve the client experience and outcomes, like a mad scientist, behaviour, statistics and data are where he gets his insights from and lives by a golden rule to always start at the beginning as there are no shortcuts. Jonathan’s passion is to make a difference by assisting clients with their business problems.