James Bedford, Director of Infrastructure Services discusses software implementation.
Over the past few years many SMEs have had no choice but to cut IT heads. Financial Directors have been doubling up as IT Directors; day to day network and desktop maintenance has been outsourced to local IT shops; and companies have become ever more reliant on software vendors to support the user base.
At the same time, technology has evolved at a pace that has left many experts struggling to keep up. After this unprecedented time of under investment many organisations now face a very significant problem. With many critical systems either already or soon to be out of support, how can the business successfully implement a new solution? The issue is not simply a lack of in-house technology expertise or minimal understanding of what the latest technologies can deliver, but a fundamental lack of experience in the challenges of deploying new software – from avoiding project creep to ensuring user acceptance testing has been completed.
While users have traditionally been resistant to any change, one of the key problems now facing organisations is that as the new technologies are compelling for users – and many users now consider themselves technology experts. From web enabled processes to social media, this is a tech-savvy audience that perceives technology as a commodity that can be easily deployed and rapidly changed. The reality – as anyone who has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of a key business system such as CRM or ERP can attest – is very different.
So how can a business avoid the significant risk associated with deploying essential IT without the required expertise and experience? This is where Project Management is critical. From day one the Project Manager (PM) will work with the business to determine objectives, set priorities and identify – and manage – risk. With a clear schedule of work required, with tasks allocated both internally and to the vendor, the PM’s role is to keep the project on track.
Critically, this will include managing the unavoidable demands for additional features and functionality that occur as the project evolves and end users begin to understand how the new system can and will affect their day to day operations. And while many of these additions are valid – and could well be delivered down the line – acceding to these requests during the initial deployment is disastrous. The entire process becomes unfocused and unmanageable and costs spiral.
Working in tandem with the IT implementation consultant, the PM can manage the process and ensure the deployment remains focused on achieving the stated corporate goals and objectives.