Are You Nuts?! You Want To Implement A New System?!
Digital transformation is the biggest buzzword of the past few years, with the events of 2020 merely reinforcing how crucial it is to implement effective tech systems that drive connectivity and ensure continuity of service.
At HorizonOne, we’ve been on our own digital transformation journey for several years – having completely overhauled our legacy CRM in favour of a custom-configured cloud-based system. This was recently complemented by the implementation of a new project management tool specifically for our scribing and campaigns team.
What started as a relatively small project has turned out to be a colossal undertaking, with many hurdles that we’ve had to overcome.
As we finally approach the finish line, we wanted to share 5 important steps and lessons learned to help others as they embark on their own implementation journey…
Step 1: Know the problem you wish to solve
It’s easy to get swept away by the promise of new technology, but it’s essentially useless if it doesn’t solve your business challenges.
Start your implementation journey with a full understanding of the problems you want to solve – such as streamlining (not replicating!) specific business processes which take time and offer little value to the business.
Consider how a change would align with your overarching business strategy, and be wary of mentalities that impede business improvement (such as “we have always done things this way”). Align the vision of business leaders and the team so that everyone is on board at the very beginning.
By bringing the right people along for the whole journey, from start to finish and beyond, you can understand the problem/s you want to solve and move forward.
Getting too many people involved without looking at the bigger picture can lead to increased timeframes and resistance to change, which ultimately will kill your system implementation.
Step 2: Create a wish list of features
Before going to market to find a solution, create a list of desirable features. Then, separate these into “must haves” and “nice to haves”. This is a crucial step to help you narrow down the right software.
Integration, customisation, and scale are 3 very important features you will want to consider. This is because your new system should:
- Be able to talk to your existing systems
- Minimise data duplication across the business
- Meet the specific needs of your business
- Allow for growth in activity and number of users
Tech implementations take time and money, so you need a robust solution that is fit-for-purpose and can scale with your business.
Many ideas can be brilliant, but hard to implement in a practical sense. In the end, decisions should be based on best practice with the problem you’re trying to solve at the top of your mind.
Step 3: Choose a software
There are so many great off-the-shelf (OTS) solutions these days that it makes little sense to develop a proprietary one.
However (as we learned in our journey), the ability to customise is vital. This is because your chances of finding an OTS solution that meets all of your requirements is virtually impossible.
This may mean hiring a developer to configure a new capability, or working with the software provider to add in new features to your version of the product.
Try to remain flexible, and commit to testing out your final 2 or 3 choices so you can gain a full understanding of how they would meet your needs.
Step 4: The step of most resistance
Now the fun begins! The challenges in this step usually have people running for the hills or ducking for cover. Designing and implementing new solutions via technology is riddled with challenges but try to stay focused on what’s important, and people are key.
Discussions and communication need to be a high priority. Change requires careful management and buy-in from the team who will use the solution. Also to make sure business needs and team needs align. It will seem like a never ending loop of ideas, testing, feedback, and adjustments.
Your workload will likely get worse before it gets better, and before you start to see efficiency so expectations within the team need to be realistic. It can be challenging to get everyone aligned, on board, and working to get the design right.
But with the right communication and engagement strategy, you are setting your project up for success.
Step 5: Try to break the system
Testing is paramount to weed out any issues before they impact your business. Test in sandboxes (non-live environment) and try to break the system by challenging it with a wide range of potential scenarios rather than just simple tasks. Then iterate, re-test and repeat.
Once everything is working as it should, you’re good to go live! Consider a soft launch first where a small number of users can learn and get comfortable with it before the actual go-live date. Then you can leverage their knowledge and support to help with training others.
We learnt many lessons along the way
We had a timeframe for implementation, but it took over a year to get where we wanted it. We underestimated the process based on our own limitations.
Based on these challenges, the biggest lessons I’ve learnt are…
- The amount of change management required – designing a system that will effectively replace and overhaul our current processes needs buy in from any business area it touches
- Aligning divergent ideas – with so many ideas and differing opinions it’s important to always come back to your central goal
- Seriously consider capacity required – other projects sometimes take priority, and sometimes people are not as available as they think they will be. Be realistic with understanding everyone’s roles, responsibilities, and time constraints
- Get the right people involved at the right time – if we could do over, I would engage an IT contractor from the beginning so planning the integration can work in parallel to designing the system. This would have reduced a lot of time spent on integrating the many systems together
Whatever plan you have, remember to be realistic about timeframes (be overly generous here), and don’t underestimate the importance of change management.
Be patient, keep engaging, and ensure you have a strong project manager to bridge the gap between the team and leadership and to keep everything running smoothly as possible.
When you bring everyone on the journey with you, you have a much greater chance of success.
General Manager – Commercial