Five steps to successful software implementation

Updating software box

Do you know what determines the success of a software implementation? According to the experts, you need to know what you want, which provider you want it from and how to stay focused on the solution you have in mind.

Most local businesses would be happy with the following results:

  • A project that delivers the correct business solution;
  • A project that’s delivered on time; and
  • A project that is delivered on budget.

We often read about implementations of ERP, eProcurement, CRM or business intelligence (BI) projects that fail on one or all of the above. The following steps can provide you with some guidance and tips on what to think about during your software journey.

1. Understand what you want

Unfortunately the path to a successful software implementation starts with you, the client. You must have a clear understanding of your requirements, detailed in a simple document with examples of required reports, process flows, etc. If you are not clear, the software vendor will have no chance of getting you the results you need.

2. Choosing the right provider

The vendor should be focused on the solution to your problems and demonstarting how these can be resolved. Remember it is less about software and more about the complete individual solution. The software provider should work with you to ensure they have a full understanding of your requirements. They, and you, can then be confident that you’ve found a good fit.

3. Stay focused

Whilst the ‘bells & whistles’ of modern software are attractive and in many cases useful, you should not lose focus on what your required functionality is. This is what will bring the key benefits to your organisation, so make sure you continually refer back to your original requirements document. Be very wary of the vendor who promises the world, without being able to show you the solution you require as per your requirements.

4. Develop relationships

The software vendor you choose will most likely be your provider for a number of years (5-10 even) so you need to think of it like a long-term relationship – you need to be able to work well in the partnership and above all, trust them. During the process of selling you should meet some of the key staff that will be working on the project. Often after you sign on the dotted line the sales people are long gone!

5. Check the implementation methodology

During your discussions with the software vendor you should ensure that they have a proper implementation methodology that is tried and tested. As part of their methodology this should include a project initiation document (PID). The PID should include the following:

  • Project summary (broad scope)
  • Project background
  • Objectives and scope
  • Assumptions, constraints and risks
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Project control and reporting
  • Detailed implementation approach
  • Project schedule and proposed dates (including detailed project plan)

The PID is signed off by both parties as an agreed document of deliverables by both parties. This clearly identifies responsibilities, deadlines, what’s in scope and out of scope, etc.

A good rule of thumb to remember is that the software is only one third of the total solution; the implementation and on-going support make up the rest of the complete software solution.

  • Thanks for these simple but accurate points.

    I had a classic failure many years ago as an IT Manager for a manufacturing company.

    Point 1 was easy. I had developed their existing systems over the years and knew every little piece of code, why it was there and what it did.

    Point 2 was a process. So many options short listed and it then came down to a best-of-breed supplier or a developer. The developer came in with great understanding and got the nod.

    Points 3 & 4 were all good.

    The project failed on point 5. While the developer understood our needs and showed he could implement them, he went and hired newbie coders who had no knowledge of business or manufacturing concepts.

    The end result was a mutual ‘walk away and don’t look back’ and an in-house re-write.
    One needs to look at who will be doing the actual work – beyond the salesmen and head honchos and at the real doers.