An old corporate adage goes like this: “There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.” Needless to say, that applies to systems implementations, among other things. And it’s pretty funny if:
- You’re laboring in the belly of the beast, and the money isn’t coming out of your pocket.
- You have all the time (and money) in the world.
- You’re not accountable to shareholders and policyholders.
- You have ironclad plausible deniability if anything goes sideways.
If you don’t have any of the conditions in 1 through 4, not getting it right the first time is a clear sign of trouble brewing.
Don’t Take Chances
If you want to make sure you do your system implementation right — and won’t have to do it over and over and … — here are a few simple suggestions:
- Keep one eye on your time, one eye on your budget, and another on your vendor. (If you don’t have three eyes, ask for help.)
- Gather your requirements, document them thoroughly, and define your specifications precisely.
- Don’t underestimate the reach, the complexity, or the duration of the project. (Murphy’s Law exists for a reason.)
- Make sure all of your internal and external systems and data sources are fully integrated with the new core system. (Data is king.)
- Make sure the data from the system you’re replacing is verified, cleansed, standardized, and normalized according to the new system’s specifications. And make sure you have a plan to manage anomalies.
- Examine all of your existing processes before automating them in the new system. A bad process automated is still a bad process.
Keep an Open Mind
Modern systems incorporate workflows derived from evolved and continually refined practices. Those practices will make your organization more efficient from the start; although, they may require some alteration of your present practices. They can, of course, be customized. But be careful. Customization can lead to scope creep, which means elongated timelines and higher costs. Beyond that, deviations from standard configurations can make upgrades more complicated, given the need for more testing, and recycling. Toolsets can help, but they’re not cure-alls for high degrees of customization. The cost, effort, and resources required to implement or upgrade highly customized systems can be unjustifiable. So, most important, be willing to hear what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
If you find yourself looking at extensive customizations, it’s likely because your business processes are out-of-date, perhaps because you’ve had to keep them to accommodate the limitations of legacy systems. The bottom line is your bottom line will benefit from accepting more standard configurations and/or from your being willing and able to manage some degree of the desired process changes.
Every system implementation contains traps. Vendors are susceptible to them, too. But if your vendor has a verifiable track record of implementation success, it’s likely that experience will help you and the vendor avoid traps. Granted, no one is clairvoyant. But experience is, indeed, the best teacher. And the best-taught vendors are an asset in ensuring time, budgets, resources, and the implementation project will be well managed.
With mutual efforts on the part of you and your vendor, there won’t be any trouble brewing.