A typical scenario – our business is investing around £15m in a new supply chain management solution; how do we ensure that our business is ready to capitalize on this investment and deliver the business case benefits? It seems so logical from the outset, why wouldn’t we demand that we be ready for taking on the new systems and processes, this should be the easy bit shouldn’t it? But organisations often pay scant attention to “Business Readiness”, they tolerate business disruption resulting from implementing new systems and processes, they even plan for it. As a consequence they usually experience a range of outcomes from “teething problems” to “complete mayhem”. Is this a necessary evil associated with the implementation of new systems or is there a better way? What are the really important aspects that lead to success?
1. Active and sustaining sponsorship within the business. All too often we see sponsorship delegated to positions with little or no authority to change things. A really good business sponsor is someone who is visible, is seen as the person who is driving the change and demonstrates a willingness to make sacrifices to ensure the change is delivered successfully. A good business sponsor ensures that senior stakeholders are engaged and committed to the change, removing potential obstacles as necessary.
2. Engage with individuals early – ensure they understand the change vision and its impact on their roles. Involve them in interactive workshops and demonstrate that you are listening to their concerns and ideas. It is natural for some people to show signs of resistance so create an environment that allows this to come to the fore, deal with it in an empathetic manner but without compromising the change. Remember that it takes longer for some people to adjust to change than others. Having engaged with people, maintain the momentum with well planned interventions and good two way communication.
3. Secure the “A” team on the project –today’s operational needs are important, but a really smooth embedding of change will likely yield greater long term benefit to the organisation. Smart organisations pay attention to backfilling day to day operations so that they can release key people to prepare for the change. This is also an opportunity for good people to grow by taking lead roles in major change efforts.
4. Invest, or buy in business process expertise – there are few major systems implementations that don’t require business process change. Typically organisations aren’t strong in business process mapping skills and struggle to develop “to be” operating models. How many times have you been told by customer services that confusion is a direct result of the introduction of a new system?
5. Ensure that the planning for user acceptance testing (UAT) is addressed at each stage of the project lifecycle and not left until the end of solution build. Whilst it is normal practice to recruit professional staff to carry out elements within UAT, business involvement and ownership in creating and executing business scripts/tests should not be compromised.
6. Ensure training programmes are interactive, participative and stimulating rather than concentrating on functional needs alone. This is an opportunity to get people feeling good about the change.
7. Invariably new systems replace old legacy systems and there is data that requires cleansing and migration. Whilst automated conversion software will usually be part of the build phase, it is important that each data source has an owner within the business who is responsible for its migration and reconciliation. Don’t forget the data that resides on spreadsheets as this often supports key business processes and requires migration. In essence, plan data quality and migration early, allow sufficient time for testing the end to end process so that it can be ready for implementation.
Focussing on ’business readiness’ from the outset will avoid the situation where new systems and processes are thrust onto an unsuspecting set of business users as has occurred far too frequently in the past. The business impact of poor implementation can be severe - loss of customers, operational inefficiencies, employee morale, regulatory non compliance ... enough business justification to focus attention.