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 part 1 of 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.

Below are the remaining six success factors for selecting and implementing new financial and operational systems.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Eliminate
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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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