No food, chemical, nutraceutical or pharmaceutical manufacturer wants their software implementation to extend past the agreed upon expected go live date. But it can happen, and it often happens when our professional services team encounter these three situations during our customers’ project implementations:
1. Our project team comes to the realization that a lot of users really did not want to change the way they have been doing their jobs. Once users really see how their new system works, they begin asking for software modifications or re-configurations to ‘mirror’ their current ‘not so good’ processes.
2. The deeper into the implementation, the more difficult it becomes for our customers to make important decisions or project tradeoffs. Different users have different ideas over that’s more important – is it the budget, go live date or software functionality.
3. Our project manager sees our customer project teams faced with shifting targets and missing resources. Seems like their executives are not involved anymore, now that we’re all into the implementation phase.
Let me make a few recommendations on how these situations can be avoided or the effects of these situations be minimized.
#1 Users – Embrace New Processes
Customers spend a lot of money on our software, which was designed to streamline their processes and to make everyone’s daily jobs more productive. But during implementation, some customers decide to re-implement a few of their old processes, instead of taking advantage of better manufacturing practices.
When users execute the same task in the same fashion with our new software, we can see that they are not satisfied, it’s kind of a letdown or simply frustrating. These emotions lead to poor user acceptance and adoption.
Typically, the costs to change our ‘off-the-shelf’ process manufacturing software can be managed at the start of the project. But down the road, when customers need to take advantage of new technologies or when the organization undergoes a shift in operational paradigms, customer management recognizes the true cost of customization. It’s a fact that a customized solution is difficult to sustain because of the high costs of ongoing support, maintenance and upgrades.
It may be difficult for ‘old timers’ to accept changes, but once these users are trained and running the software, their organizations can recognize the benefits. Customer management needs to stress that new software will make users more productive by reducing certain steps and reducing the handling of exceptions.
We suggest reminding users that the new processes supported by their new software will improve everyone’s daily jobs, which will help achieve departmental and corporate goals. In one’s project plan, it’s important to remember that achieving a series of short-term results will quickly quiet the naysayers and cynics. The project mantra is that the future benefits of new software outweigh the short-term pains of change.
#2 Project Managers – Focus on the End Game
There are always some operational scenarios that are encountered during implementation that spark a debate over how a function was to be delivered or how a function was to be employed by users. Our project manager wants the customer to choose from what’s available to keep on plan. The customer then debates over available options or asks for modifications. But is it in the budget? How does it impact a milestone date?
System changes during implementation – it’s all about time, budget and functionality. And these decisions need to be made in a timely manner.
Project priorities should be set up front and communicated to all individuals involved in the project, and that’s on both the customer team and our professional services team. When everyone understands the corporate direction and priority, individuals can make more consistent choices when faced with time, budget and functionality decisions.
#3 Executives – Stay Involved
All departments involved in the implementation need to understand the cost of non-cooperation. Most staff haven’t worked together on a mission critical project, such as an ERP implementation, so regular intra departmental communications is key.
Things happen, changes occur during an implementation. So, executives must empower their project manager to adjust staffing, reallocate resources and even revise the project plan to keep on track. And when the project manager cannot make the necessary decision in a timely fashion, executives must step in quickly to resolve the conflicts.
So, what happens when an executive leaves the company during implementation? Typically, we find these implementations get delayed. To avoid such delays, we recommend that the executives establish a steering committee board upfront to render judgements on all project matters, judgments that are consistent and in line with the stated corporate objectives.
We recommend that customer project managers are empowered, and all departments incentivized to help drive the project forward. Executives need to keep even a closer eye on project labor and resources, and the project milestone dates, during the implementation phase to ensure the project is delivered on time, on budget, on target in terms of delivered functionality.
Our experienced implementation consultants will help your company prepare for the changes by providing you with a list of customer specific roles and activities that need to be performed during implementation.
On behalf of our professional services team, I would ask all new customers to follow these recommendations, because they will contribute to your successful project implementation.