Saturday, 18 January 2014

System Implementation 3

In part 1 and part 2 I covered both the preparations for and the major activities of an implementation project. This article indicates the final items you need to be aware of, as well as a sample implementation plan.
  1. ENSURE THERE ARE APPROPRIATE PROCEDURES FOR YOUR NEW WAY OF OPERATING
Referring back to a point I made earlier, one of the main reasons that new systems do not perform as desired is that the staff continue to work in the old way, possibly keeping their old software, spreadsheets or even manual systems going. 

New systems need new procedures. These need to be thought through carefully, and checked thoroughly after a few months. 

Installation of a new system always means a strain as old systems are brought to an end and new ones are bedded down. Quite often there is a period of Parallel Running, where old and new systems are kept going until everyone is happy with the results. This also gives you time to check that the new procedures are adequate.
  1. HAVE A FORMAL DECISION POINT WHERE YOU ACCEPT OR REJECT THE SYSTEM
As part of your planning you should have identified a stage in your project where can assess whether you are happy with the new system, in other words decide whether you accept it (or, awful thought, realise that it is not acceptable). Two questions you should have asked at the beginning are:
  • What features and functions are required to make the system “Fit for Purpose”? 
  • What else, such as system availability and usability, is required to make it “Fit for Use”? 
It is important to carry out this process formally, even where the work is being done more casually (by a friend, a colleague, or possibly even yourself). Otherwise the system is never 'finished', it is always under development. 

[One company had a system the Managing Director developed when he was first hired. He was still working on it years later.] 

With an outside supplier “acceptance” is a key step as you move towards live running. It may also affect any final payment.
  1. REVIEW THE PROJECT AND IDENTIFY LEARNINGS FOR THE NEXT TIME
After acceptance, the next (and possibly most vital) stage is to review the project. Go over what you did, review your initial plan and objectives, identify what went wrong, but also what went right. 

SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION IS NEVER EASY 

The above approach can help, but even in the best of projects disasters happen. In my experience the most common failings are: 
  • The plan is not believed or supported by those involved, or (in extreme cases) no plan is ever made. This makes the whole project impossible. 
  • The resources allocated are inadequate, or they are never made available even when promised. 
  • For technical reasons (beyond your understanding) the system never works. 
  • Staff are not given appropriate training, or they forget what they learnt, or they cannot cope with both the new system and their old job. Often their new role is never clearly explained. 
  • The data in the system is never trusted and so the old systems which the new one was meant to replace are kept on, using up extra resources.


SAMPLE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN: 

Here is a sample implementation plan 
  1. Draw up and agree the Project Plan. Carry out an initial identification of the resources required, the timescales and the costs involved. In particular be aware when payments will need to be made. 
  2. Review the resources required with appropriate senior management. Get agreement to their provision, and identify how they will be made available. Confirm any implementation constraints, such as a need to avoid changes at Year End. 
  3. Identify the data required in the new system. 
  4. Decide who will access the new system or its data, and identify the training they will require. 
  5. Draft a map of the new business processes. 
  6. Review all technical issues, including data security and backup, and ensure responsibility for these is delegated appropriately. 
  7. Identify the required interfaces with other systems and ensure they are specified. Identify and agree the reports to be provided. 
  8. Carry out input or conversion of the required data. 
  9. Validate the data – either completely, or by running sample extracts. 
  10. Ensure all the technical issues have been handled and the interfaces have been provided. Test them well before they are required. 
  11. Design user procedures for the new processes and train all staff at an appropriate time before they need to use the new system. 
  12. Check the reports have been provided and validate them. 
  13. Parallel run the system where appropriate. 
  14. Check all the support documentation is complete and the agreed user support service is in place. 
  15. Carry out a formal acceptance procedure.

Good luck!

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