There are many hurdles to overcome when selecting the right PSA tool for your organisation, including getting buy-in from the team.
But, in many respects, the problems really begin when you start to implement the system.
Like ERP, there are many failed PSA implementations out there.
We're not necessarily saying the software is not being used, but failed in terms of the benefits case that drove the decision to buy. This is a significant undertaking, both in terms of people’s time and also cost, so take a few minutes to think through how you are going to achieve a successful project that delivers the maximum benefit from the software you have chosen.
In this blog post, we are going to focus on organising yourself for success instead of abandoning your company to failure. While these notes are designed for medium sized businesses of 20-50 people, the points made are just as applicable to smaller teams, although the roles may need to be shared.
Firstly these projects need some defined roles including:
- The accountable executive: this person should not be involved day-to-day in the project, but they must take ownership for the delivery of the benefits case and so be the decision maker and escalation point for issues. They would chair a monthly review meeting with the project manager to understand progress and issues and most importantly, make decisions and stand by them
- The project manager: this person runs the implementation day-to-day. For a large organisation this is a full-time position, but even for smaller companies, this should be the most important thing they have on their desk until the system is live and settled in (remember the project doesn’t stop once live, it needs to be adopted and monitored for a few months thereafter to make sure the changes stick)
- The functional representatives: these are people chosen to help manage the functional design and change in their respective areas or teams. As a minimum you need three covering sales, operations and finance. But if your business has divisions, or other legal entities, they will also need a seat at the table
- The testers: it is good to make a separation between the people designing the use of the software and the people testing that this works. This separation achieves two things; (1) it breaks the team mindset that prevents challenge; and (2) it really assists with buy-in of the final configuration, so improving adoption
- The vendor implementation consultant: the person or persons who are the specialists in getting the best from the software
While formal reporting relationships are un-necessary in most cases, what is vital is that all involved respect the opinions of the other team members and stick to their area of responsibility.
This core team will also need support from people cleaning data, attending training and presentation sessions. A clear communication cascade posting regular updates on a notice board for instance, really helps prevent surprises and once again, assists buy-in.
The project naturally breaks down into three phases of Design, Data load/test and Implementation.
The design phase has a further three distinct aspects that generally run in parallel:
- Process design: it would be unusual for a new system not to offer improvements in the way you operate your business so don’t start configuring the system before reviewing your processes in the light of the capabilities of the new platform. The process design (and related configurations) should be led by the functional representatives
- Data design: another area often neglected is the data design. Agreeing what data you are going to model and store against the main objects is vital to underpin a solid process design and agreeing that data model before loading the data in will save hours later on
- Configuration: applying the results of the design work to the software so that it is ready for data load and testing
This work is all proven with data load and testing, providing an opportunity to tweak the configuration and make sure the data design fully supports the process design. Testing will ensure that process design actually makes sense, as will running sample reports.
Lastly, implementation is a key phase that requires discussion and agreement. From the extremes of a big-bang to a small localised go-live, there are a wide range of choices available. Obviously, decisions can be driven by area and need, but each company will have its own ideas about what makes sense to use first.
The best advice is to have a go-live that is material in terms of change to the business and benefit, hopefully decommissioning an existing system. If you go live in a secondary or tertiary area, the project may well stall leaving your business more complex and expensive than before - not the best outcome.
Whatever you decide to do, get the accountable executive behind the decision and make sure what they agreed is what is delivered. After all that work, you need a successful launch.
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