When it comes to getting real benefit from any system, software is only half the story, the other half is delivery. When choosing the right bit of kit to invest in, comparing functionality, reviews and reports all help in the decision making process. But what of the team that build and implement the software? Here are our 5 tips to guide you through getting the perfect delivery.When considering an implementation of software there is a host of good in-depth reading to guide us through the process. The go to are Gartner and Forrester or user perspectives in G2Crowd.
The functionality of the software can be compared and contrasted and assessed for its suitability for the business. Considerations like:
- On premise v Cloud
- Size and scaleability
- How and what they can help plan:- finance, personnel, sales....
- Integration with other sources of information and systems
- How easy it is to learn and use
- Ease of implementation
When assessing any software though, remember that it's only as good as the implementation. So all the reviews in the world won't account for a poor deployment.
So in this article we are looking at how to ensure you get a good delivery.
Right team ¦ Right place
I know every consultancy says they have the best team, with the most qualifications and experience - so how do you judge if they are really telling you the truth? Take the time to ask:
- Do their consultants stick around?
- Their qualifications
- If they have the right experience for your business
Building a team of consultants is about creating the right mix. Let's take Financial planning software; planning tends to be sector agnostic. More relevant is experience of the business challenges you are facing. More than this specific finance knowledge and qualifications matter equally as much as software certification to ensure understanding of the vocabulary of finance but more importantly the nuances of what you are trying to achieve. A dose of business savvy can be just as important as the pieces of paper. Make sure a consultancy understands the problem you are trying to solve and that they have the skills to solve it.
There are many consultancies which implement from a distance. This works in the main, but at on-boarding when the business challenges need to be nailed, an on-premise workshop is really invaluable for both consultant and client to get a sense of personality, culture, and company structures.
Remote delivery is very common and works so long as a good relationship is established at the start which is far easier when everyone has seen the whites of each others eyes.
There are two distinct delivery methods which are most common these days, waterfall and agile.
Waterfall demands that a blueprint with full documentation is completed and rolled out in stages. Once a blueprint is agreed the consultancy team go away build the solution and then work with the internal team to test and put it into action.
Agile is a more fluid approach. It is a continuous wheel which involves conceiving, prototyping, assessing, feedback, re-iterate, and back round again. This approach gets users involved early and critiquing the solution to ensure the final product does what they need it to do. The other big benefit is there is no 'hard 'go-live' as users are seeing and touching the software very early in the process. This helps with conceiving how it works and gets people engaged with using it early.
For larger deployments the waterfall approach maybe favoured, agile is great for shorter implementations or when getting users engaged early on in taking ownership of the software.
For most planning solutions the reach is limited compared to large scale ERP implementations for example. Getting finance people involved in a new software early pays dividends. Many can't conceive of anything to replace Excel and until they see and try the alternative, breaking down preconceptions can be difficult.
Think about what will fit best with your timescales and resource availability. Large projects can soak up valuable time, whereas smaller small step projects can be more flexible. Ultimately it is about getting the best approach which fits with your organisation.
Many smaller consultancies don't bother with project management, the same person building is managing the project. But as teams and clients grow, ongoing customer management becomes more critical. It may be less about a particular person and more about having a process and structure of delivery which counts.
An on-boarding process, regular project updates, having a third person to voice concerns to as well as on-going development and customer support are all part of making for good relations in the long term.
Consultants don't always make great managers of projects. Someone who can step back and see the bigger picture is invaluable when things aren't going so rosy. More than that they speed up the fix, the faster a problem is identified the quicker it can be put right, and that is good for everyone.
Continuity & improvement
When implementing a new solution you want to build a good relationship with your consulting partner. When you have a questions or problem or something new you want to develop you want to know you can pick up the phone and get the same voice, or at least someone you know, who understands your build.
Continuity is even more important these days as people move jobs more regularly. A team can change in 2 years and you want to be sure that when it comes to updating and support, the team who built it are still there.
When considering support remember if your software support is in a completely different time zone this can impact a working day. Delays in getting simple fixes, or answers to critical questions, can impact a business big time, so make sure your first line of support is working at the same time as you!
Software is not a one off thing. From windows to Facebook, updates and changes to functionality as well as look and feel can throw many users. It is important you have a relationship with your partner which means when you need to add new functionality, or further develop your use of the software they are able to support this.
These days extending the use of software in 2nd and 3rd phase developments is common. As a business grows, so does it's planning and forecasting needs, so you need an implementing partner who is still training and developing their skills to meet the needs of their clients to get the most from the software.
All too often when a deal is signed, the sponsor disappears leaving the finance team to get on with putting it in. This can be a big mistake. Without a good understanding of what a system can do, and how it does it senior management can have expectations of a solution which were never realistic. If FD's and CFO's stayed closer to the implementation, not only could they get what they want from the software, but so could the company.
Planning solutions can suffer in one of two ways; dumping down and over complication. With more involvement from the top the less ambitious models and over complex ones can be challenged. Without someone asking if the solution solves the pain and does it better then payback is hard to achieve.