Saturday, 21 December 2013

System Implementation 2

In part 1 I covered the key activities to be completed before you start an implementation project.

Now we start!
  1. MONITOR PROGRESS REGULARLY
Once you have started implementation it is vital that you have regular, minuted, progress meetings (usually at least monthly) with a formal agenda. (See my article on meetings for more detail.)

At a minimum you should cover the following items: 
  • Work that should have been done since the last meeting 
  • Work actually done since the last meeting (which will usually be quite different) 
  • The effect this has on the schedule and budget (so you become aware of delays and over-runs as soon as possible) 
  • What needs to be done about this? (Usually something needs re-scheduled, or additional resources are required.) 
  • Who should be told (i.e. who does it affect)? 
  • Work to be done by the next meeting 
The questions in bold must not be neglected. A lesson that all project managers learn only too painfully is that any slippage must be identified as early as possible, and appropriate action taken quickly. 
  1. MAKE SURE THE SYSTEM IS PHYSICALLY INSTALLED AND WORKS
This area deserves a separate section of its own. Ensure the system is physically installed and, no matter how many other people are involved, make sure you actually see it running in some kind of test mode. Once installed, check that any technical issues have been resolved, and - crucially - get signatures from all the technical people involved that they are happy with the situation – or identify why they are not.
  1. HAVE A COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING PLAN
A major part of the implementation plan must cover training. This should be discussed and agreed at an early stage. Be clear about who is to be trained, how long the training will take and when it should be provided. People who receive training must know beforehand why are being trained, and they must have time available immediately after the training when they can apply what they have learned to real project work.

One of the worst shortcomings about a system is often the lack of adequate training. Users typically feel that the training they received was inappropriate or not put in context. This often happens because the supplier does not understand your own situation. Make sure they are adequately briefed, and give training specific to the needs of those they are training.
  1. ENSURE THE CORRECT DATA HAS BEEN INPUT
The data required for the valid operation of the new system must be available somewhere in people’s heads, on paper, or elsewhere. There needs to be a process which ensures that the appropriate data gets into your new system, within a reasonable timescale. Planning for this can be the largest part of the implementation. 

Nowadays much of the data you require may be converted from older systems. But even then it needs to be thoroughly validated (see the next section). 

Also, as soon as data is in the new system it needs to be kept up-to-date, and of course old systems cannot just be abandoned. They must be kept going until the new system is accepted, and then they should no longer be used except (possibly) for historical enquiries.
  1. ENSURE YOUR NEW DATA IS VALID
Any data put into a new system has to be validated. This can be done in several ways. It can be checked by a senior person; accounting-style data can be parallel run (see below); or reports can be replicated. 

Whatever happens, it is crucial that the data really is checked, and its validation signed off. This process, like most of the others, should involve all those affected by the project, so no-one can feel their opinion was ignored. Once data has been validated, it should be verified once or twice over the succeeding months. 

Systems often fail because users do not believe the data is valid. 

[Everyone knows that "Old Bill" has the correct information locked in his head, or the only way to check how much material there really is in the stores is to go and look...] 

Concluded in part 3

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