Implementing new system solutions comes with many challenges. The process can be overwhelming, confusing or lengthy—there are all sorts of reasons why companies might shy away from change. They continue to operate in a fragmented manner, which raises questions of efficiency and profitability. When a business decides to take a risk and begin the system implementation process, inadequate planning and unrealistic expectations can lead to project failure and soaring costs.
Understanding common challenges of implementing projects can help businesses avoid them. Common challenges faced by system implementation projects are as follows:
Project teams will include a variety of internal stakeholders such as project managers, team leads, product managers, digital adoption specialists, and subject matter experts. Project teams will work closely with suppliers, including developers, designers and customer success managers. Software suppliers need to be transparent and honest about what they can deliver throughout the implementation process. For example, you expect them to be hands-on but you get less attentive service, which can lead to conflict. You think the software has the features you want, but it does not and problems might arise. There must be good communication between the internal project team and the supplier to ensure that your expectations are met during the implementation process. By defining the milestones and deliverables required in the planning phase and meeting expectations in the implementation phase, the process will be smoother.
System implementation often requires migrating data from an existing system to a new system. Ensuring data integrity in this process is critical, so understanding what data can and cannot be moved across systems should be the first consideration. By learning the level of interoperability between the two systems, you can be better prepared to protect data, ensuring that data is not lost or left behind during migration and that privacy standards are maintained. The danger of not paying close attention to data integrity during the migration process is that you may lose important customer-related information. If information is lost or misread during the process, the data can be stolen or unreliable. During the implementation phase, the project team must continually verify the integrity of the data, possibly requiring a third party to reconcile and ensure requirements are met.
Project teams must be aligned on overall goals, processes and schedules. Each member must be ready to defend the interests of the department or team and work together to develop an implementation plan. Preparing for the actual launch of a new product includes determining how much internal support the supplier will need to provide in the first days and weeks, based on the scale of the rollout. Another responsibility of the project team is to establish a framework for identifying and solving common user problems. This can include establishing new communication channels between users and project teams, as well as building solutions that provide user engagement analysis and process completion analysis. Armed with insights like this, you will have a clear and accurate view of the most prominent usability challenges and be able to quickly implement solutions.
In the process of implementing a new system, there may be resistance from employees who are satisfied with the existing system and do not want to learn new processes. Employees must be fully prepared for change. Schedule time to demonstrate the benefits of the new system to employees before implementing it. Articulate why the new system is necessary for their day-to-day work, and how the new system will improve their productivity and quality of work. In this way, they will embrace it rather than reject it as they learn how to use the new system.
In addition to a contractual obligation to oversee implementation, the supplier that delivers the software should be considered a partner in the project. Their existing expertise is critical to ensuring a smooth migration. Open communication helps alleviate the feeling of a supplier disappearing after a product is first launched. The supplier’s customer support representative and development team should be available to answer specific questions, provide expertise and support when needed, and work with IT to resolve issues quickly. Building a good relationship with a customer support representative is an important first step. By building friendly relationships, it will be easier and less stressful to work together to resolve issues that arise along the way.
Implementing a new software platform is a daunting task that requires detailed planning to ensure smooth execution. If the plan works, it means that your team is well prepared and the software meets the required specifications and the right expectations are set. Leave appropriate training time to make employees feel comfortable and confident while using the software. Training should be seen as an ongoing process, with detailed step-by-step instructions where required, ensuring that employees experience minimal disruption to their work.
Implementing a new system or upgrading an existing system is a complex process. Project management is used more formally in IT organizations to deal with the implementation of both. Like other industries, the IT industry must find ways to shape project management processes and the tools that best meet specific needs.
The high failure rate of system implementation projects and the increasing reliance of organizations on IT departments make it critical to develop and use effective tools and methodologies for these projects. What is more, project managers for these projects are often appointed from systems analysts or other IT staff with little or no project management training or background. System implementation projects are often time-critical due to pressing business needs.
The tools and methodologies for system implementation projects differ from those best suited for software development projects because the challenges of implementing projects are different. Implementation of a typical system requires resources from various specific areas, including programming and interfaces, networking, hardware deployment or technical support, end users, education or training. These special resources may exist within or outside the Information Services Department. Implementation projects also include information service personnel, clients and other stakeholders that serve analysis and selection. These resources are almost always shared among organizations and other projects. System implementation projects rarely have dedicated resources. It is important that these team members collaborate effectively and have a clear understanding of the project’s tasks, responsibilities, scope, status and respective roles.
The IT department within an organization is often busy with routine maintenance, supporting products and hardware already in production, and assisting end users with reporting, training, and other functions. As a result, new projects are often incorporated into day-to-day work, leading to the lack of good organization or planning in project scope or requirements. Creating and using a quality PM tool like 8Manage PM will provide the following:
- Add structure to define goals and objectives at the outset
- Define the beginning of the project, formally acknowledging that the project is new (as distinct from ongoing partial maintenance and support)
- Define project end results and deliverables, ensuring the transition from project to maintenance
- List the projects clients, stakeholders and resources
- Place the project in an organizational setting, outside of the day-to-day work of the IT department
Studies of system implementation projects have demonstrated low success rates across the industry, and have pointed out that improving the situation requires finding and using the right processes and technologies. More and more industries are adopting project management methodologies to solve this problem. Like other industries, the IT industry has unique characteristics and needs in applying project management disciplines. Time is often a critical factor, and business requirements are waiting for a new flow of information. Other factors that are highly relevant to the success of a system implementation project are:
- Good communication
- User participation
- Clear requirement reports and user requirements
- Reasonable planning
- Breakdown of project milestones (to monitor project progress more closely)
- Clear vision and goals
- Proper scope definition
- Well-defined process
- Expectation management
- Customer concern
These success factors are more easily realized in system implementation projects by developing and using tools to create clear and focused communications covering all aspects of the project with different project teams.
Project management core processes are supported by processes that drive progress and that provide the necessary input and analysis for final project decisions, including scope, resources and schedule. Active use of these progress-driving processes is an important and even necessary step to achieving success. This is also where the tools and methods mentioned below have the greatest impact.
In the system realization project, clear goals and objectives, ensuring customer participation, rational allocation of resources and effective communication are all essential factors. Projects are often requested by clients who have fairly vague expectations about the final product. When a project is presented to information services staff, the result is likely to be two different understandings of what can and cannot be done, or what needs and expectations are. In the end, both parties were dissatisfied and the project could not meet the demand.
Identifying the information needs of stakeholders and determining the appropriate way to meet those needs is an important factor in the success of a project... Project resources should only be spent on communicating information that promotes success, or where lack of communication may lead to failure. It is the sender’s responsibility to ensure that the information is clear, complete and unambiguous so that the recipient receives the information correctly and confirms that the information is correctly understood.
Apply the following three elements to guide the project managers’ communication with stakeholders:
- Find the right way to communicate
- Determine which information is most needed
- Present this information clearly
8Manage PMsupports the following:
- Project team—should include clients, key stakeholders, and most important resources. Make sure these people are involved in team meetings. Doing so helps each member understand their role and the contribution they can make to the overall project, and creates a sense of ownership for the project.
- Determine meeting goals—determine whether the meeting is for planning, information, or decision-making. Create an agenda accordingly and focus on that goal.
- Project status—periodically report project status to the project team. Use the latest work plan and confine your discussions to it.
- Ask more questions—ask some people more questions.
Aligning customer and IT understanding and expectations is the first and critical step. First, bring these people together and meet to discuss their needs and expectations. The meeting agenda should focus on this issue. The process may require more than one meeting or repetition to ensure that there is good communication between the client and the information service staff. Record and summarize the results of these meetings.
Asking questions, gathering information about them, documenting them accurately, getting the consent of all parties, and focusing on how to use that information effectively are crucial steps. Also, it is important to distinguish and use the differences in problem solving and decision making. If the purpose of the meeting is to clarify the problem and possible solutions, state that at the outset, and carefully plan the meeting and associated tools for that purpose. One meeting drives another. Do not make any assumptions about customer needs, and do not make any assumptions about what will be required for the implementation of the project. Ask the project team and resources questions to make sure nothing is missed. Doing so uncovers potential risks to your project, allowing you to manage those risks from the start.
8Manage PM supports the following:
- Bulleted scope statement—includes rationale, product and deliverables, time and cost targets, resources, exclusions, assumptions and key risks. Bulleted lists can be read quickly and focused on relevant points.
- Work Breakdown Structure—create and use WBS diagrams as part of the scoping and planning process so the project team can visually see all relevant content and verify that everything is covered.
- Concept maps—used for brainstorming sessions during the planning phase or as preparatory material for building a WBS. It helps determine which elements must come before others in a multi-phase implementation process. This is a powerful visualization tool that stimulates planning and analysis.
- Multi-project overlay diagram—many projects are often implemented concurrently in an IT environment. To avoid conflicts with resources or activities, the diagram visually combines information from several different work plans. Distribute and publish this diagram in the Information Service department. Keep clients aware of all other ongoing system implementation projects with it, so they can see how projects relate to portfolio, prioritization, and resource allocation.
- Phase/activity checklist—create a chart that summarizes the tasks to be accomplished at a certain phase.
- Responsibility matrix—also in diagram form, cross-references tasks against resources; distributes the Responsibility Matrix to help team members identify their roles.
In system implementation projects, creating and using a powerful PM tool like 8Manage PM has been proven to be effective in driving project success. Organizing project team meetings, utilizing purposeful discussions, and summarizing important project information in graphs and charts all help to ensure that all stakeholders and resources have the same understanding of project goals and objectives—have the same “picture” in their minds. Project managers have a lot of detailed information in front of them, but one of their most important tasks is how to filter and aggregate the most important information for project teams and clients. Avoid lengthy descriptions and unfocused meetings. Determine which information is most needed, find appropriate communication methods, and present essential information clearly. Where possible, visualize the information and distribute the visualized content not only to the project team, but also to the entire Information Services department and for use in user training courses.