The people side of a successful enterprise implementation—who’s on your team?

An enterprise software solution is a comprehensive suite of common business applications designed to drive your business objectives. It’s unique to your organization—not an app on your phone. It’s a solution designed to help run your entire enterprise—not solve a single task—so the setups are often complex and, more importantly, it requires the input of all facets of your business, including engineering, maintenance, finance, etc.

Here are a few common characteristics of enterprise software implementations that demonstrate why they are different and need to be managed with care:

  • Time intensive: anywhere from a few months to over a year
  • People intensive: involves multiple individuals from accounting to project management
  • Oversight: requires close supervision and detailed project management
  • Process-driven: the software directly affects enterprise workflows

Successful project and program management depend on two key elements: process and people. Just like when you’re managing a capital construction project, you need to have a consistent, repeatable process to ensure an enterprise-level system is delivered successfully. It’s also vital that the right folks with the right level of experience are assigned to the project team.

Although projects, by definition, are unique, a good software implementer will follow these main steps in an implementation:

Discovery: This is where objectives are defined. Your team should validate the scope/timeline of the project, identify the key SMEs and other resources, define major milestones for implementation, and define goals/success metrics as well as the KPIs.

Design: Document in detail key business processes and how the system will run, deciding which data fields, supporting documentation, approvals, etc., are needed for each process (e.g., RFIs, change orders, capital budgets), culminating in a detailed requirements document that customer and implementer sign off on. 

Configuration and testing: Assures that the system is set up according to the requirements defined and confirms end-user acceptance.

Training: Multiple rounds of training are common depending on users’ roles (e.g., system admin training, training for capital planners, training for project managers, training for executives). A “train the trainer” approach can be conducted for large deployments to help organizations facilitate ongoing training.

Deployment: Once training has been completed, decision-makers need to decide on a go-live plan. This plan includes ensuring everyone has the right access to the system and the right level of support for the first few weeks, that old systems are sunset/phased out, and that adoption is monitored to ensure everyone complies.

From discovery to deployment, an enterprise software platform directly affects every facet of your business. Large software deployments often fail for reasons ranging from inaccurate requirements and lack of leadership commitment to lack of accountability and training. Allocating the right resources to the implementation team is a way to mitigate these risks.

Here’s the key personnel that should make up your implementation team:

Business analyst: This individual captures business and functional requirements in the specifications documentation. The analyst is responsible for understanding precisely how your organization ticks and ensuring that the designed solution aligns with your business needs. An active business analyst ensures fast adoption and long-term sustenance for your organization.

Project manager: This individual is responsible for overall implementation success. They establish the final project scope and success criteria. Throughout implementation, the project manager keeps the project in scope, on budget, and on schedule, participating in project reviews to assess risks and issues and to plan mitigations and resolutions with the project team. The project manager “owns” the implementation and makes sure the customer is delighted.

Systems integration team: Integration specialists develop integration and migration paths between different systems in your ecosystem. Some integrations are more out-of-the-box and simple need configuration, while others can be more complex and require close collaboration with the customer’s IT department. In some instances, they can also support form and workflow configurations.

Data migration team: One of the biggest challenges on large enterprise projects is transitioning from old to new. Migrating data is a complex process involving data mapping, normalization, validation, cleaning, exporting and importing, and testing. Make sure your software partner has one or more dedicated people assigned to support data migration.

Configuration/testing team: The requirements have been designed and documented —now it’s time to put it all together. A dedicated configuration and testing group are vital to ensure that your system is configured quickly and according to the design requirements. Testing specialists work with customers to validate that the workflows, data entry screens, reports etc., are correctly set up.

Training team: Training is essential to the success of any enterprise implementation. Make sure your partner has a team dedicated to developing a robust training plan with established training strategies such as instructor-led virtual training or in-person classroom training. It’s also important to develop courseware for system administrator training and end-user (or train-the-trainer) training so that your organization adopts the system.

Bonus tip:

Customer success: You’re going to have questions.  Evaluate your potential software partner’s technical and long-term support capabilities.

That’s your enterprise implementation team!  Every one of these individuals play a critical role in the long-term success of an enterprise system for your organization. One of the pitfalls with all the power made possible by today’s advanced solutions is that some organizations might be tempted to do too much. It’s very easy to build crazy mousetraps in today’s powerful tools. A strong, experienced implementation team, led by their project manager, keeps the necessary focus, drives the project through its phases to completion, and, ultimately, strives to make their customers successful in their day-to-day work.

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