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Developing a Phased System Implementation Plan

Implementing a new business support software system is an undertaking that should always be taken with care. The ease or difficulty of a new system startup is directly related to the degree of advance planning and preparation undertaken.  The better the plan the smoother the implementation will be. When a new system is chosen for a business there are usually a number of advantages to be realized once the system is fully implemented. Recognizing these advantages will require a number of modifications to existing business processes and can potentially result in shifting of responsibility within the organization. The path to a smooth implementation is to institute these changes gradually and with care absorbing change in doses as small as possible. A system implementation should be an evolution not a revolution.

The Initial Startup Phase

The initial startup phase of a system implementation should leave existing business processes intact. Changes should only be made if absolutely necessary. The path by which information flows through the business should remain completely unchanged if possible. This way the initial change to be absorbed is limited to the use of the new system. Old habits die hard and leaving old methods behind is sometimes difficult especially when business is moving at a rapid pace. So limiting the initial change to only the use of the new software is the best way to ensure success.

Follow on Phases

Once the initial phase has been completed steps can be taken to achieve full implementation. Just as in the initial phase this should be done in the smallest increments possible. Changes should be initiated and absorbed one at a time. Procedural changes that impact multiple areas within the business should be planned at a detail level involving the people that will be impacted by the change. The new process should be clearly defined and the path from the old to the new should be mapped out as well. The more complex the process the more detailed the migration path should be. The gradual implementation of these phases should be taken as slowly as possible while allowing for time in between each so people can settle into the new procedures.

Business Partners and Change Implementation

Often implementing a new system affects the way business is done with customers or suppliers. These changes should be initiated using the same phased methodology as internal changes. Since these types of changes involve people outside the business it is often advantageous to use a pilot approach to making these changes. This is done by performing a trial run with a small group before full implementation. When using the pilot approach helpful information can be gained while change is made at a smaller scale allowing the full institution of the new process to be much easier.

Achieving Full Implementation

According to the objectives identified when the new system was acquired full implementation is achieved when all desired benefits of the new system have been realized. At this point all the process improvements and projected sales improvements and cost reductions have been brought to fruition. The things the company set out to do have been completed. At this point, it’s always a good practice to take another look at the system and determine whether or not there are more benefits to be recognized that weren’t identified at the outset. The long term goal should be to get the maximum benefit possible from the system. As always changes should be implemented gradually.

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