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implementation challenges

9 questions to ask when implementing a new IT system

from  August 8, 2022 | 4 min read

Digital transformation is 80% planning and 20% implementation. It's up to the IT team to ensure that tools and platforms are fit for purpose and rolled out in a way that lets your whole organization realize that purpose. Its vital that you ask the right questions for any IT implementation or new technology, whether thats for a new program or application or a whole new IT system. Here's some critical advice on ensuring your next implementation goes as smoothly as possible.

Why planning for change is inevitable

Change is inevitable, especially in IT departments in 2021. With the drive to transformation and the mass shift to remote working rapidly overwhelming legacy systems, its clear that the only option will be to retire many of your organizations IT systems and replace them with something capable of handling the pressure – without breaking the bank.

And of course, its your job to make sure the new tool is bedded in and works without any hitches. No matter the size or scope – whether youre implementing a company-wide ERP system thatll underpin the organizations operations for years to come, merging legacy ERP systems with modern technology, or just upgrading to Office 365 – smooth implementation is often easier said than done.

What to ask before your IT implementation

To help you on the way, weve compiled this list of questions you should be asking – of yourself, your leadership team, and your users – to smooth the process of your next IT implementation project.

1. What problem are we planning to solve?

This is the most critical question to ask before taking on any major project. Knowing the issue youre tackling goes a long way to preventing scope creep, identifying natural areas of responsibility and accountability for your team and others, and identifying the right tool for the job. If you cant get a clear answer to this question, its a good sign that everyone needs to hit the breaks and have a serious conversation about just what youre trying to achieve.

2. What are the implications of doing nothing?

The problem might be causing pain, but sometimes the pain of solving a problem can be greater than the pain of the problem itself. Some problems can simply be dealt with long term. Before you start, its vital to ascertain whether the best course of action is actually not to act.

3. Whats our vision for the solution?

A strategic vision for the solution – how it will interact with the rest of your ecosystem, the functionality it will provide, and the total cost and benefit it will represent – is as vital to smooth implementation as many of the complex technical decisions you need to make. Refining your vision will also allow you to begin re-orienting your processes to accommodate new systems.

4. Is everyone on your team on board?

A lack of buy-in from IT exposes your organization to wasted end-user time and exposure to unnecessary risk. Poor implementation means poor functioning, poor security, and a poor allocation of resources. Make sure your whole team is ready to deliver before you take the plunge.

5. Is everyone in leadership on board?

Click to read Increasing Excellence in IT with ERP (2023) Gated

Organizational leadership should always provide the vision and momentum for change – especially as without their direct involvement, itll be challenging to drive adoption at every level and align teams to new strategic priorities. Make sure that your senior colleagues are on your side.

6. How will we establish the implementation project team?

One of the most common sources of failure for change initiatives in and out of IT is the lack of appropriate resources. You can carry out some IT implementations alongside regular day-to-day duties. Others – like full-scale ERP replacements – may require a dedicated project team that spends an extended period working solely on the task at hand. Youll have to decide which approach is suitable for each project you handle. You can read more about cloud ERP implementation in this FAQ article.

7. Who will own the implementation? Us? The vendor? Outside consultants?

Depending on the size and complexity of your new system, the individuals responsible and accountable for success may change. You may rely on outside consultants to take the lead to let your teams focus on the day-to-day. Or even support from the vendors teams. Notably, the people responsible for leading the project cant afford to be distracted by day-to-day firefighting.

8. Where are we likely to see resistance from the userbase?

Resistance isnt something that you can simply nip in the bud. Its an inevitable feature of most change projects. It arises because conditions and needs on the ground often make adopting new tools difficult, even if theres a strong appetite for the change. Speak to your users and identify the choke points, and youll have a much easier time overcoming them.

9. Are we doing this, or just talking about it?

Communication doesnt necessarily equal execution. Its very easy for leadership to assume that the implementation will automatically happen once theyve given an order. To ensure that this doesnt happen (and that the implementation does), youll need to actively engage all levels of the organization regularly to check up on the process and ensure that everyone understands whats expected of them, how they can do it, and where to go if they feel they need support.

Software implementation is all about People Experience

Experience. Thats what software is all about. At the end of the day, its a means of delivering an experience to a user that lets them do something they want to do. And that experience should engage rather than enrage them.

But its also about the kind of experience the people working on the implementation have – not just how knowledgeable they are, but what it feels like to live through the project.

To get both the process and the outcome right, you need to take a distinctive approach to designing and implementing enterprise software. At Unit4, we call this approach the People Experience.

What is People Experience?

It starts with the kind of company you are and whats important to you. Unit4 is in business for people, and we work with clients in people-centric sectors like professional services, nonprofit, education, and the public sector.

Our approach to software design puts people first. It aims to make work easy and intuitive so that people are engaged and productive, and the organization achieves its goals. We shape software around the way users want to work and automate as many dull, routine tasks as possible.

This mindset extends to how we run implementation projects. We work very closely with clients, involving them in decisions and empowering them to set up and launch the solution themselves. We transfer our knowledge to them so they can manage the software in the future and adapt it to changing circumstances quickly without our help.

This approach helps in five key ways

  1.  We start with ready-made industry templates. You can use them as they are or make any essential tweaks necessary for the first release and leave further refinement to the next iteration.
  2.  We focus on what will deliver a good proportion of business value in the shortest possible time and deliver that first. This de-risks the launch and accelerates time to value.
  3.  We transfer our knowledge to you so you can manage the solution yourself without outside help, adapting it quickly to meet changing business circumstances.
  4.  We manage the project professionally, looking after issues, risks, changes, and all that good stuff cleanly and efficiently.
  5.  Well help your users adopt the solution and prove that the project has delivered its business objectives.

Clients prefer this to how the rest of the industry operates

One of our public sector clients, Bev Burnette, Finance Manager for the Township of Langley in Canada, said of her implementation experience, Working with Unit4 has been an absolute pleasure. I thoroughly enjoy the knowledge that Im able to gain when I work with some of the Unit4 consultants.

Theyre very personable and easy to work with. They make sure that youre not just being given the system you need, but youre being given the knowledge to be able to support it and rebuild it if you needed to.

Bev is not an isolated example. Our clients have rated their implementation experience on the independent peer review site, Raven Intel, and Unit4 consistently scores higher than the industry average.

Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) for project implementation is 8.3 versus an average of 7.1 for the industry. And we also deliver 25 percent more projects on time compared to the sector, and our consultants are rated an impressive 4.2 out of 5.

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