When a new software system is implemented, it will more than likely support the business processes as they existed before the new system was acquired but will not be fully utilized. When the decision is made to change software systems, the business anticipated significant benefits that could be realized by making the change and most likely there are features in the new system that have yet to be put to use. So once the dust has settled from the initial startup of the new system the next goal should be to achieve full implementation. This requires identifying the remaining features, prioritizing them and planning the path to implementation.
Identifying the Remaining Features
The logical starting point is to look at the reasons for purchasing and implementing the new system. The factors that influenced the decision to change will identify many of the potential benefits of the new system that have yet to be realized. Secondly, there are probably a number of system attributes that were identified during the initial startup phase that should be put to use. And last but not least the system may have the capability to support requirements that were not identified early on but may have become apparent after the initial startup phase. For each feature identified the expected benefits should be stated in order to assist in the prioritization process.
Setting the Implementation Priorities
There are many factors to consider when prioritizing system feature implementation. The impact of the change on sales, cost reduction or increased productivity should be considered. Also, the resources required and the extent to which the business process cycle will be impacted should be taken into consideration. There also may be market demands that dictate the need for change and these should be part of the prioritization process as well. Implementing the biggest impact items first may not make the most sense when considered with the other factors included. For example, implementing a feature that is expected to have a major impact on sales may require significant resources or may impact many areas of the business process cycle. These factors may add up to a long implementation period. There may be several items of lesser impact that can be implemented more quickly and when considered together they may have an impact similar to the larger scale item. All factors should be considered when setting the priority of system features.
Establishing the Path
Once the features to be implemented are prioritized, the plan for implementation should be created. The timeline should be established, resource requirements identified and responsibilities assigned. These should all be put into a written plan. A key point to remember is that the plan will change as things progress. Circumstances may cause priorities to shift or estimated timelines may prove too short or too long. But the most important thing to abide by is that the changes should be implemented one at a time. The implementation of a change should not begin until the previous one is completely absorbed. If too many changes are made simultaneously the sources of problems become more difficult to identify. So a period of time between changes should be included in the plan in order to allow things to settle.
Managing the Implementation Process
As each feature is implemented, results should be reviewed and evaluated before proceeding to the next step in the plan. This will provide confirmation of success in each phase. Then prior to the implementation of the next feature the impact and planned changes should be reviewed and modified if necessary. Proceeding one step at a time in this fashion will ensure success in achieving full implementation and allow the anticipated benefits of the new system to be realized.