Five Key Elements for a Successful Systems Implementation

In the last 2 years at JiT I have been a part of various system implementations in many ways. I have been part of the vendor selection process, the sponsor/lead, the SME, supported migration loaders, performed validation activities, and of course I’m an end-user. So, from all those various roles and experiences in my past, what makes a system implementation successful? I’m sure if you asked 3 different people you would receive 3 different answers but here at JiT & in my opinion, if you can abide by these 5 key elements, you are on the path to success!


  1. Executive & Leadership Support: Ensure that your executive team and leadership team understand and can visualize the business advantage the company will gain as a direct result of the system. Does the executive team believe the new system will provide the company with a new competitive advantage to clients and/or employees better? When that belief is in place, executive sponsors champion the project when it hits its inevitable rough spots. They will effectively allocate additional resources to support tasks falling behind, settle key decisions in a timely manner, and reinforce expectations during team meetings. They spread energy and excitement about what this change will mean to all involved. They are your cheerleaders!


  1. Cross-functional Representation: There should be a broad representation of groups in the project to ensure that all perspectives are accounted for during the design and implementation. Too many times I have seen business requirements being gathered without anyone from the business being in the room or technical requirements being assumed without ever asking the IT department for input. It may lengthen the project timeline during the req. gathering phase based on the # of meetings, but it’s far less time than performing a round two of documentation updates & code/configuration updates. To help, included a stakeholder analysis to evaluate who will be impacted by the system and at what level. This will determine the level of participation and support change management. Inclusion and engagement early will also increase ownership and the project’s success.


  1. Testing: To make sure that the system is functioning as designed, it must be thoroughly tested. A test plan should be detailed as soon as designs are completed, and testing resources should be focused on the main functionality of the system. Avoid the common error of focusing too much of your testing efforts on complex functionality that may only be used a small percentage of the time. Where possible, assign end users to perform testing. They will learn valuable troubleshooting skills and, more importantly, become advocates of the conversion. Make sure that the functionality to be used every day is working.


  1. Change Management: There are 2 main components to Change Management during a system implementation – Communications & Training. It is critical to have a Change Mgmt Strategy that contains a stakeholder analysis, communication schedule, communications library, and various trainings. The comms schedule needs to align to your system go-live date so you can focus on building awareness, driving excitement, providing resources, and continuing to engage all parties at the accurate level (based on the stakeholder analysis) throughout the project’s progression. Many times, there will be a library for -2wks, -1wk, Go-live, +2 days, +1 week as an example. For the training component, at a minimum you will have 2 sets of training: Sys Admin & End-User but based on the complexity and the sys functionality there may be various levels of business users or the need for Quick Reference Cards (QRC) to support user of the system on Day 1. Another critical component is to ensure training is comprehensive, in an easy to absorb format, and stored in a location easy to access. Keep in mind that any hands-on end user training is most effective when delivered as close to go-live as feasible, in order to achieve optimal information retention.


  1. Metrics/KPIs: Remember when I said the key to success was having Exec/LT believe in the business advantage the company will gain? Well, now is your time to prove it. Was the project successful can be answered if there are measurable improvements to processes or a positive change to key performance indicators that were identified at the start of the project. Utilizing points of comparison can provide valuable tools in diagnosing problem areas too, so it is necessary to define baseline metrics well before starting the project. It is best to keep the number of items tracked small, simple and based on the overall impact of the metric. For example, prior to implementing a Learning Management System (LMS), how much time it took to perform QC on a new hire’s compliance to assigned training verse the time it takes now for line managers to perform this QC. If there is significant gain for the company with an overall reduction in time spent by the line manager and by the new hire with advanced reporting capabilities & reminders in the LMS, you have provided a positive metric & therefore, adding to the success of your LMS implementation.


There are many other items that can increase your success implementing a system, but I truly believe if you lead with a focus on these 5 key elements, you will greatly increase the system’s launch.


~Ashley Bates, Sr. Director Operations

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