LSSA Implementation White Paper
When implementing a software solution, whether it be an accounts or case management system or another package, it is crucial to take time to consider the process and to plan properly.
This LSSA whitepaper provides information and guidance on implementation and assistance to avoid potential pitfalls.
Your software provider will go through the implementation process regularly, but a firm normally undertakes a new implementation only once every few years. The key is to understand your objectives and to plan comprehensively.
Appointing a project manager
Having a member of staff responsible for the successful completion of your project will ensure the success of the implementation. This person should have enough time to dedicate to the project. It is often the case that unless a member of staff is specifically tasked with the project it can be left to several staff, each of whom may have pressing work deadlines that may take precedence, which can result in delays and confusion.
Your software provider will provide a project or account manager who will work directly with your project manager to be responsible for the implementation.
Your project manager will need co-operation from various members of staff and should have enough authority to both request and expect assistance when needed. You may consider appointing a project director and sponsor to enable your project manager to escalate issues if necessary.
If you uncertain as to how the implementation will take place your software provider’s project manager will be able to take you through the process from data migration to training and ‘go live’. The key to a successful implementation is the planning stage so don’t be afraid to labour this point with your software provider and seek guidance and clarity. Having both parties fully informed at the outset will be of great benefit to all.
It is important to consider your end goal and when you want to achieve this by. Working back can enable you to understand time frames and allows you to consider realistic deadlines.
Dates and milestones should be set for both you and your software provider. Failure to meet a milestone will have repercussions and may delay the project.
Agree on a timeline in Excel and place it in a shared location so that both project managers can view and update. Add the name of the owner of each task. If a milestone slips, review timelines of subsequent actions so that you know immediately what the knock-on effect will be.
In some circumstances expediting an entire project may be necessary. In these cases, failure to meet a milestone will have a severely detrimental impact on the project. Expedited projects will often carry greater costs and risks.
Weekend and out of hours work
It is normal practice for software suppliers to provide their services during business hours. Some firms may offer out of hours services, whether that be over the course of a weekend or through the night, and this may be your preference when considering the implication of moving from your old to new system. Consideration should be taken for requirements for out of hours work. Discussing the scope of this work with your software provider’s project manager will give clarity and identify any preparatory work that can be completed within working hours, minimising the scope of out of hours work. You should expect to pay higher fees for this work and plan to have a member of your team available to assist your software supplier resolve any issues that develop out of hours.
Often when implementing a new software product firms will emulate their current working practices This is rarely what a firm sets out to do but work pressures mean that the scope of the project, and often most useful elements of the new software package, will be pushed out of scope in favour of returning to the norm. Agreeing the scope of the project is vital.
Scope should include:
Data that will and won’t be migrated.
Calculate the effect will this have on your reports and, in the case of accounting software, your MTD submissions.
Functionality that will be used immediately.
What must be operational on your ‘go live’ date for you to be satisfied that the implementation has been successful?
What functionality will be used after ‘go live’ and when?
These could be the exciting features that convinced you to migrate to a new software supplier. Make sure you factor in when you will start to use new features. These may include new reporting features that didn’t exist in your old package or a portal giving your clients the ability to track their cases online. You may decide to delay the implementation of some new features until users are familiar with the new software package.
What training will be delivered, how and when.
Training is a critical step in achieving user satisfaction. Often the biggest challenge a firm faces is aversion to change. New software can look and feel different. It may initially be slower for your staff to navigate around a package as they become familiar with it. Providing them with training, support and involvement in the project will ease the transition and enhance morale.
Whilst your project manager will need to communicate with their counterpart at the software supplier, what may escape some is the importance to communicate internally. Involving your team and keeping them informed of what is happening will make them feel involved and integral to the process. Staff who will play important roles in the process should be told as early as is practical, so they do not feel “put upon” at the last minute. Leaving it to the last minute can often damage staff morale and even damage their perception of the new software even before they’ve seen it.
Communicating with your staff, providing them with training and supporting them will make the transition easier for them and the implementation more straightforward.
If you have the capacity, appoint software champions who will be internal advocates for the new system and give them the training to support their colleagues. As a project manager, director or sponsor the aim of implementing new software is to gain efficiencies, improve compliance and provide a better service. Regardless of how good the software is, if your staff do not embrace it your job will become that much harder. Communicating with them, providing them with enough training and giving them support will make the transition easier for them and inevitably the implementation simpler for you.
At different junctures of the implementation your software supplier may ask you to “sign off” to confirm a milestone has been met. Sign offs may relate to the data migration, go live and test if you are performing more than one migration*, completion of training, installation or set up of your software package or system, implementation of certain features or setting up of templates and workflows. All these elements can have a big impact on the overall success of the project so “signing off” when items have been completed and tested helps everyone understand that the project is on track. It is imperative that any issues found during the project are reported promptly and that the software provider is given time to remedy and rectify issues. A properly organised project will factor in time for contingency work to be undertaken.
Set KPIs for sign off points, which could be numeric, e.g., 80% of x has been migrated, or people- related, such as dedicated super-user Jane Smith feels confident using the new system.
Once the project has started it doesn’t mean that you cannot amend decisions. You may need to reconsider what data to migrate and when, which features to use, or anything relating to the implementation of the software. Varying objectives may have an impact on agreed time frames and cost. Communicating a need to vary the objectives as early as possible is vital to minimising impact. Often a request to vary the objectives, along with alterations to timeframe and costs, will need to be documented and agreed by both parties before it is signed off and committed to the new project timetable.
You should consider a general project review around three months after you have begun to use the software. Review the status of your implementation against the scope and objectives. Have you successfully achieved all the things you set out in the time frame you set?
Your software provider is committed to providing you with a good service and will want to assist you to resolve any issues during the project and work with you to overcome them. The completion of your project should not be the end of your engagement with your software provider. Through continued engagement you will find your optimum use of the software and your firm’s adoption of the technology and its features will continue to improve.