Skin in the Game

Five strategies to establish buy-in and accountability for a more successful, speed-to-value software implementation


3. Keep on schedule and find ways to minimize costs along the way.

An implementation can easily derail when unexpected expenses or delays drive the project over budget. At the start of the engagement, your project leaders must schedule and mandate attendance at weekly or biweekly meetings. Everyone can use this session to stay on the same page regarding the project's progress while agreeing on tactics to address any outstanding issues or threats. Additionally, project milestones should be established throughout the implementation and beyond the go-live date. All too often, solution implementations or upgrades are planned with only the end result in mind. By establishing interim benchmarks to measure progress, major issues can be uncovered proactively to ensure that the go-live date is met. Frequent and measurable milestones will help keep the implementation on track to deliver the expected results.

You can also consider ways to cut costs from the start of your implementation. At a privately held U.S.-based food company, project leaders worked with their software provider to allocate implementation tasks in a manner that maximized the skills of the company's power users. The team also kept consulting hours to a minimum by relying on its own internal associates to handle much of the detailed coordination onsite. Another factor that kept costs down was tapping into the software vendor's offshore resources for the highly technical aspects of the solution upgrade.

4. Consider managed or hosted services.

For some companies, selecting the software solution is easy — it's the implementation scope and timeline that prove to be difficult. A managed services or hosted solution approach can be ideal for companies that do not want to make a capital investment upfront. Other companies want to rely on managed services for the operational aspects of running systems, such as ensuring capacity and plans for disaster recovery, business continuity, maintenance, network and infrastructure upgrades. Further, by aligning with the right managed services provider, your company can gain rapid time to value, more innovative capabilities and the flexibility needed to establish a strong foundation for growth.

For example, The Sun Products Corporation, a leading laundry-care manufacturer, faced an aggressive deadline to establish a new IT environment as a result of a merger — yet the company lacked the internal resources to make it happen. Joe Manco, director of IT business applications at Sun Products, says: "We decided that a managed services approach was the best choice for handling our looming deadline and ongoing day-to-day IT requirements. It would enable us to stay focused on our core business strengths, while we trusted our vendor to do the same. We had full confidence that our solutions would be up all of the time and that our vendor could support us for the long term on a 24/7 basis."

5. Make sure your implementation consultants have skin in the game, too.

Whether you just licensed new software or are planning an upgrade, be certain to partner with an implementation provider that has a stake in the outcome of the project. Some companies choose to use independent consultants rather than the implementation services offered by the software vendor. However, one of the best ways to ensure accountability is to get a total solution from the software vendor. This proximity can make all the difference in meeting your project deliverables on time and on budget.

"Rather than giving my team a bunch of test scripts and telling us to 'call if anything fails,' our software vendor's consultants sat right next to the Hibbett Sports team and watched them physically test the systems," says McAbee. "Because of this arrangement, we achieved quicker and better results. Our services consultants could see if a problem was surfacing and would articulate any issues back to the vendor's product developers or support team for fast resolution."

Success is a Combined Effort

With IT expenditures being scrutinized and slashed, it's simply no longer acceptable for companies to launch a software implementation without the right forethought, plan and experience. Simply handing over the reins to third-party consultants or taking a hands-off approach can lead to marginal results or worse.

It's critical that companies planning a technology implementation form a team in which everyone understands the rules, comes prepared and plays to win. Companies that adopt a skin-in-the-game approach to their software rollout — allowing associates at various levels within the company to take ownership of the project from the beginning — will realize bottom-line value. With this winning combination you will invest in the right combination of people, processes and technology to deliver real results. ¦

About the Author: Chris Moore is executive vice president of services for JDA Software, where he is responsible for the company's global implementation consulting, strategic business services, education and training, customer support and managed services teams. More information on JDA Software at www.jda.com.

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