The Next Step Is Implementation
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SGIA Expo 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana - October 10-12


What stops the implementation from succeeding? What are the factors needed to keep the process going? Who succeeds and who fails? Let's review the process and find out.

By Eric Hall, CASper Eazynet Solutions Inc.

Establishing targets dates throughout the process is an effective delivery optimization tool.

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  • The processes of the company have been analyzed, the software application has been selected and the implementation plan has been developed. The three integral components needed for the successful integration of a management solution to an enterprise are in place. Ready, set, WAIT! What stops the implementation from succeeding? What are the factors needed to keep the process going? Who succeeds and who fails? Let's review the process and find out.

    The application delivery process comprises:

    1. Process design
    2. Software application
    3. Implementation plan

    All three are integral components needed for the successful integration of a business management solution to an enterprise. But the derivative step that is often missing is the evaluation of the commitment of the corporate community. This crucial variable measures the sensitivity to change of the community's various members.

    A basic tenant of successful application implementation is to review, measure and document the process. No matter how you measure the impact of application performance, in the age of instant-everything, failing to consistently provide structure and forward momentum can hinder content delivery and risk forming a bottleneck. Recognizing and reacting to each implementation process will improve the application performance and integration into the organization .

    Though the consensus may be that application performance is paramount to success, the debate about how to achieve that goal continues. Application performance is affected by a wide variety of factors that are specific to each organization. Resistance in the corporate community will often be a decisive factor without a solid implementation plan in place to address each issue. Since no single software solution encompasses the entire business process for all companies, no single solution can completely resolve the problem of poor application performance. Resolving this problem requires taking a more holistic approach to optimizing the entire application delivery.

    Analysis
    When looking for a business management solution, the first step is to focus on the individualized and specific needs of the business. This phase identifies the basic requirements of a business solution and attempts to ensure that present and future needs are addressed by the selected product and by the accompanying support team. This phase includes a review of the technology and the topology, the how and the why, the procedures, and the rules that will be documented in the delivery of the business management solution. This process is very well developed, and as a result, 70 percent of this process is effectively done in a majority of cases. The 30 percent edge is given only to those companies that have a clear and well-defined topology. This process is naturally done within the company or with outside consultants and is used as part of the purchase decision. This topology outline will help define the company's processes in the second step of this procedure, and thereby will be instrumental in determining a major focus of the implementation.

    Managing the change introduced by a new solution is costly and can be an obstacle to implementation. The implementation process must address the changes that will take place and plan to adapt to new challenges that arise as the process works forward. What part of the process do we redesign to fit the software, and what part of the software do we customize to fit our process? And conversely, what do we give up and work around? These are fundamental decisions, as the perfect out-of-the-box solution does not exist for most companies.

    Low-cost solutions that are not customizable are rigid and require the enterprise to work around the built-in process. Customization of the solution requires increased costs but reduces both the changes in internal processes and the cost of managing that change. Change is hard and resisting change is expensive. Understanding the processes that course through your business helps to dentify the changes required to those processes or to the software.

    Due Diligence
    The second step is the analysis of the business processes that exists in the enterprise, with the focus on identifying the perceived missing or weak links. This phase identifies the bottlenecks that slow down the process; the black holes where opportunities are lost; the inefficiencies in processing, tracking, manufacturing and installing projects; and a review of the quality assurance controls in place. Using what is gained in step one, the second step is the due diligence portion of this process. Knowing what is needed, we then test our results against the available solutions in the industry.

    The key factors in the selection are the capabilities of the business solution as compared to the identified requirements of the enterprise; the philosophy and design of the training team supporting the solutions; and the cost of ongoing maintenance, updates, training and support. What is determined here is not only the best match to the process but also the best match to the philosophy of the two companies.

    • Is the solution flexible?
    • Can it be customized?
    • Is the supporting company welcoming to constructive criticism?
    • Do they create an environment that encourages customer collaboration in product advancement?

    Changing the software will require a fee. Inspiring software enhancements should provide product adjustments at no charge in future releases. In this phase, the customization to the software and the costs involved should be clearly laid out. While flexibility is required during the implementation phase, it is in this second phase where major expenditures must be outlined in detail.

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    Defining Hidden Agendas
    With the business solution and support team identified, the derivative step in the process is the analysis of the corporate culture. There are many variables that exist in implementing a business solution to the enterprise and understanding which variables exist, and how they impact other variables is crucial. Fueled by managers who have little tolerance for delays in application implementation and utilization, users who are intransient in the face of change, and other employees operating at the outer limits of their capability, organizations are seeking solutions that can help them root out and eliminate bottlenecks to implementation. Overcoming the hypersensitivity to demands on time and the need for instant gratification is a common and often hidden reality. Analyze the changes that are going to take place by conducting interviews with the members of the staff that are in powerful or key positions under the old solutions.

    Anyone from a sales manager to a bookkeeper may hold a position that will change with the new solution. If the new process affects power or influence, then resistance will build. It is counterintuitive to think that a corporation that has just agreed to and paid for the purchase of a well-researched business management solution would nee to be compelled to act upon an implementation plan, but that is sometimes the case.

    Has the administration made a clear decision to move forward at this time? The use of testimonials and anecdotes along with a concrete timeline for delivery of each phase are useful devices to this process. Part of the implementation program is to provide data that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the process over time, and show the future return on the present investment of time and resources.

    Paramount to the success of the implementation is recognition of the delivery shelf life. Once a company and a product are selected to provide the business solution, an expiration date is stamped onto the project. This date must be expressed in the implementation plan and controlled with objective goals and timelines. A helpful tool in this process is to present a content delivery timeline that expresses what is required from each area of the company on a specified date. Once the timeline is developed, present it to each department with the contributions required from them. This process will continue with the distribution of goals and training objective timelines.

    Price Versus Cost
    Out-of-the-box solutions cost less but require a higher price in terms of internal process redesign. Developing and managing work-around solutions are less efficient and in the long term are more costly. Managing change is a significant cost, and selecting the change to be managed requires an analysis of the existing business process. Redesigning the process to fit a solution or customizing a solution to fit a process requires an understanding of the process and the software solution. Collaboration between management and the selected solution provider is required to document the process at this time. Each party will bring their expertise to the table. This collaboration will minimize changes to internal processes and to the software solution. The result will be a knowledgeable and documented solution that manages the change and promotes confidence in the process.

    Upgrades, Maintenance and Support
    The continuing services and support agreement is a valuable part of the process that should be included the implementation plan. This part of the document clearly lays out future services and the costs associated with them. Maintenance costs are commonly priced as a percentage of the total software purchase, and the industry average is around 20 percent. Maintenance policies differ in what services they provide. Most agreements cover cost of software defects and related support costs associated with the resolution of the problem. Better agreements cover yearly upgrades or updates, not just bug fixes. The top tier of support covers training documentation and videos, technical support and documentation, and a user support group. However, some companies are now offering a premium level of support that covers ongoing web based training and webinars.

    Including the service and support agreement within the implementation plan provides coverage of the company's policy on how support issues are to be documented and processed. Reinforcing the policy during training provides the employees with an added level of comfort that a support mechanism is in place to assist them in the transition.

    Defining the Upgrade Delivery Process
    Software upgrades are generally delivered on a schedule. Updates, including patches and bug fixes, are delivered on an as-needed basis and cannot be scheduled. Rules should be established to understand how deliveries will be made and how the notification process will be handled. Procedures to install upgrades and updates should establish the time of day the process can occur, the documentation to be provided, and the type of advanced notice required prior to the installation. When mandated by the extent of the upgrade, training should be scheduled and delivered to familiarize the staff prior to the upgrade.

    Of the many factors involved in a successful implementation process, momentum throughout the company is clearly the most significant and difficult aspect to maintain. Fundamental to the process is the business analysis. Clearly documented processes and timelines with concrete and well-defined goals establish the foundation of the plan. Providing the momentum and maintaining it is as much of an art as it is a science. Initiating contact through emails and webinars is a routine tool, and providing schedules and timelines on a timely and regular basis are required tasks. Adding routine software announcements and invitations to advanced training to the mix of communication devices provides a window into the ongoing support processes, and reassures the staff that they have a stable process. Include success stories and customer reference statements with correspondence, and celebrate milestone and task completions, especially if they are difficult.

    Eric Dexter Hall is CEO of CASper Sign Business Software. He has worked in the sign industry as a consultant in software systems implementation for over 30 years. He has designed software for the sign industry, specializing in estimating, enterprise work flow and production management. Mr. Hall studied psycho-educational processes and developed and expanded the philosophy of extended expertise while teaching at Temple University where he received an M.Ed. He currently resides in Petaluma, Ca. He can be contacted at erichall@casper123.com

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, September/October 2014 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2014 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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