The vendors should now know your Critical Success Factors and key requirements, and should be given an agenda so that time is allocated properly. You should attend no more than 4 demonstrations, and limit the time to 2-3 hours. Ask each attendee to identify major strengths and weaknesses, as well as score (-10 to +10) how well they did for each topic on the agenda as well as indicate its importance (1 to 10).
You will be amazed at how much you learn and how little some of the vendors know their customers. Have a checklist of questions to ask such as our checklist that can be obtained by clicking here. Tell the reference a little about yourself before asking any questions so that they have a level of comfort with you.
Prove that the system will work for you
Prepare a script that contains sample transactions that should be processed through the entire system. The script is a day in the life at your company will contain the most important business processes with sample documents and reports. You could ask 1-2 vendors to prepare a proof of concept. This is a time consuming task for the vendors as well as for you in attending the demonstration. But you are only focusing on the vendors most likely able to win your business.
Negotiate the price and the contract
It’s a buyer’s market. You will get a minimum of 10% off the first quote. Many of the vendors offer competitive pricing when they know they could lose to a competitor who could offer a reasonable solution at lower a price.
Know the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
You need to understand all the costs including license fees, implementation, support, hardware, networks and communications before making a decision. There should be no surprises later. Click here for more about TCO.
Do a Boardroom Pilot
You need to work with the system to understand the many options. You may think that a customization is required until you better understand the various workarounds. The vendor has an idea of the customizations, but has probably not created a specification or given you a firm quote. Use the boardroom pilot as a way for the vendor to understand your requirements and for you to better understand the system before signing a contract and purchasing the software. You will need to pay the vendors for their time. You should get a fixed price as one of the deliverables of the boardroom pilot.
Business Case Foundation
Don’t forget what you should have known during the selection process. You should have already understood Critical Success Factors (CSFs). CSFs are defined as those things that you must do well in order to be successful. As well, you should have defined measurements of success. Before starting any project, you should know how to measure success. Measurements of success act as a motivator for staff during the implementation, and help keep the project on track and focused on CSF’s. Even if you have not done it for system selection, it’s not too late.
Business Process Improvement
Don’t assume that your existing business process is the best way to get the job done. Even worse, don’t insist on modifying the new system to do exactly what was done before. First, ensure there is an understanding of existing business process. Roll up your sleeves and talk to the people who do the work. Ask them to tell you how much time is spent on activities. It may not seem serious if 1 person wastes 15 minutes per day – but what does it cost if there are 10 people doing the same thing throughout the year? Assuming a rate of $25/hour and 1,800 hours or work per year, that little problem has cost the company $112,500 for the year.
Project management is a key factor in predicting success of any project. Project management includes management of scope, budget and timing. Rather than using the school of hard knocks, you should consider working with a structured methodology such as published by the Project Management Institute (PMI). A good project manager has support of upper management, and can be tough. If the project manager wants to please everyone, he/she is not the right person.
An internal champion must be allocated to the project. Even the most difficult projects can become successful when you have an internal champion who is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
You need their involvement for many reasons. Without it, you could risk missing critical business process that only they know about. And just as important is the psychological component. People are often threatened by change. By getting them involved, they are more likely to be supportive.
You want your best people involved in the implementation. They have the confidence of their colleagues, know the business well, and usually have the right attitude. The implementation is going to take time. You must reduce their normal workload.
Seek out potential risks, their impact, and their likelihood of occurring. Encourage all interested parties to develop strategies to mitigate the risks. Every organization has at least 1 naysayer, who can cause a lot of problems, but who is also very knowledgeable. The naysayers must be included in the risk management process. By getting their input early, you can avoid problems and you effectively limit their negativity.
Don’t keep people in the dark. Communicate formally, informally and frequently.
Train the Trainer
This is a good way to cut training costs, and force employees to know the system. The best way to learn a subject is to teach it.
There are many options in the setup of a new system including setup options, conversion, integration, and customization. An iterative process is required until the prototype is completed. It may take a few times before you get it right. Take a small, representative sample of transactions through the system including reports and controls. Don’t go live before everyone is ready.
Beware of Customizations
Customizations can bite. The first bite is that it slows down the implementation and the costs soar. The second bite occurs when you want to upgrade to the newest release. This is not to say that some customizations are warranted and have a compelling business case.
Phased in approach
There is also what is called the big bang theory, when you do it all at once. I think it got its name because everyone shot each other. Small and mid sized businesses especially don’t have the manpower to do it all at once.
Post Implementation Review
Learn from your mistakes and there’s always room for improvement.
About the Author
This article was prepared for these business consultants
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