Guarantee a Successful Enterprise Application Deployment or Upgrade?
You just came from ‘that’ meeting. The one where they said, we need to upgrade/purchase an Enterprise Application [Insert CRM, MRP, ERP, HRMS, etc. here] and it needs to be implemented by [Insert date here]. Okay, where to start? Take a deep breath and follow these three simple steps to ensure that you come out looking like a hero.
1. DO NOT skimp on the planning.
2. Make/Use of a visual project board or application to keep the project on track.
3. Promote your Vendor to Partner.
The first thing is to properly plan the project deployment. Start this even before considering sourcing a vendor. Make sure you have a clear understanding of organizational business processes and requirements in place today, and into the future. This early planning will pay off from the sourcing RFP/RFQ process to the actual Go-Live and beyond. This is where an ounce of planning will save a pound of pain. Slow down, take your time. Make sure to ask all the right questions, and then ask them again. Some due diligence will ensure finding the right vendor to help deliver your project on-time and on-budget. It will also validate getting the best platform that meets the organizational requirements, and most importantly, it is where to identify potential issues and get out in front of them. The biggest mistake is to hurry into the deployment phase of the project. Good planning will prevent time lost by doing tasks once, and only once.
Secondly, have a way to track the progress and adjust as you move along the timeline. There are plenty of project management platforms out there to do just this. There are several apps that do this well. I suggest a platform like SmartSheet® or Basecamp℠ if it makes sense to invest in a cloud platform. However, there is a much simpler and proven method that can start and complement these SaaS applications. Take a blank white board, draw swim lanes (lines from top to bottom) that represent phases (or milestones), and put the names, and a date, to complete each phase at the top of the swim lane. Then get several pads of sticky notes in different colors. Each color will represent a different portion of the project (i.e., Chart of Accounts (Finance), Warehouse Planning, or HR training). Then start putting those items in the appropriate swim lane phase/deadline. This is a great way to visualize the whole project. As the project progresses, you can move around the different tasks (sticky notes), and when the project timeline starts to shorten, or budget begin to shrink, you can move around non-essential items/tasks to after your Go-Live or roadmap them for a future phase.
Finally, make sure your vendor is invested in the project my ensuring they see themselves as partners in success. Partners have skin in the game and are not going to go on happily billing high hourly rates as your project experiences critical issues. Things like “scope creep” or lack of leadership on solving complex issues can tank a project. A true partner would be able to help avoid those pitfalls. A partner would present possible issues as they arise and helping to mitigate them prior to them becoming a major problem. Initiate this process by asking them to speak up if they see an issue, and constantly ask them in status meetings, “what am I not seeing here, or what am I missing that would cause an issue?” Draw upon their experience to avoid mistakes. State clearly and often the expectation is for them is to ensure common issues are identified and discussed as soon as they are identified, and that you will hold them responsible if they let the project go down a proverbial “rabbit hole.” Another successful tactic is to treat vendors and consultants as if they are employees at your company. Invite them to company functions like lunches or holiday parties. Make sure they share in success having a post go-live party to celebrate everyone’s hard work. This will ensure they see themselves as part of your team and will work to see the project is successful. If vendors do not rise to the level of partner, do not be afraid to replace them, or supplement the project team with an experienced and trusted advisor who can help save the project if it has gone off the track.
You should always consider and implement these steps for any Enterprise Application deployment or upgrade. Also consider bringing in an experienced advocate with proven success to supplement your team. It will save time, money, and headaches. Remember the three steps: Put extra time into planning, track the project with a flexible and visual method, and press your vendor to act like a partner. These are the fundamental pillars upon which a successful Enterprise Application project will be built.