Before cloud computing, implementing software across large enterprises came with huge headaches that built resentment among users and executives. That’s changing now that Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions can halve the implementation time. Of course there’s the other big plus too: SaaS systems eliminate capital expenditures.
Despite the significant advantages of cloud-based systems, SaaS deployments don’t always go smoothly. There are issues that organizations can’t plan for. Companies often face internal roadblocks. Executives lose focus. Unforeseen bugs delay the project. Sometimes, businesses simply buy the wrong software.
And then there are issues that can be planned for. Employees will require training to make sure they get the most out of the system, rather than reverting to old ways out of habit. Many enterprises require additional coding and configuration to ensure software meets the needs of their particular business and its regulatory or contracting environment.
For those of you who are thinking of deploying a large, enterprise software solution, here’s what you can do to get your organization ready.
- Know what you’re buying, and why you need it.
Plenty of major software implementations have failed, some quite famously. One common reason is that executives didn’t have a clear idea of what they were buying and how it would change their organization and processes. This can lead to miscommunication, and in the worst instances, the purchase of a system that doesn’t support business processes.
- Establish a clear chain of responsibility.
Complex implementations often have multiple stakeholders with different needs. It’s important to spell out what’s required of everyone ahead of time to ensure, for example, that those responsible for making decisions are available when the vendor needs them. Subject matter experts and champions of the project should consult with colleagues across the organization to make informed decisions. Since many solution upgrades require firms to overcome institutional inertia, high-ranking executives should be kept informed to remove roadblocks that may arise.
- Plan for contingencies.
A solution without bugs has never been invented. There are just too many variables in the real world. Too often, we see companies plan to begin systems integration tests almost immediately after they have completed conversion testing. They become frustrated when they hit a snag that pushes the overall project timeline back. Those sorts of project schedules assume that testing won’t find anything, but testing will invariably find issues. That’s why it’s useful.
- Get on the training train.
Makers of enterprise-class software typically offer high-touch models of customer support, but that doesn’t mean every problem needs to be solved with a phone call.
Use training and refreshers to keep employees using the system and to ensure that updates to the software don’t throw anyone for a loop. Select a few key employees to become super-users who know the application inside and out. Many new systems come with all the bells and whistles, which some will need more than others.
- Embrace your unknown unknowns.
Big projects often uncover hidden bottlenecks within organizations. Some firms design processes with multiple levels of approvals that really aren’t necessary. Others may find out that their data isn’t as clean as they thought. Don’t be afraid to make improvements just because your organization is already going through upheavals. Vendors of specialized software, especially, might know quite a bit about best practices, and can advise.
The big picture
Cloud-based solutions make major software upgrades easier than ever, promising a faster return on investment and helping executives reach their goals faster. However, that doesn’t mean they’re without roadblocks. Planning, training, and access to key stakeholders are some of the biggest organizational challenges arising from big project implementations. Without these factors, costs are higher, and ironically, employees get less out of a very expensive system.
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