Part 2 of 5

defining-it-project-successIn my last post I introduced the concept and importance of an implementation plan and described some of the common reasons software implementations fail. In this post I will focus on the implementation assessment or needs analysis definition.  This is where you are creating the scope of work for your implementation.

Function/ Feature Analysis
Before you begin creating your implementation plan (covered in my next post in this series) I advise using a pre-implementation assessment and needs analysis. The purpose of this step is to identify the specific areas of D-Tools you plan to use and assign priority for each of these. Identifying the specific features and functions you plan to implement is a big help in creating the implementation plan and helps to quantify what your implementation will consist of. This is a step many users fail to take when starting an implementation, and instead tend to fall back on something like, ‘We plan to use all aspects of D-Tools software”. Using every aspect of the software is awesome; however, most who make this statement have not taken the time to really understand what ‘everything’ means! How would you react to your integration customer if they told you they wanted their system to do ‘everything’?

When I conduct a pre-implementation assessment with a client as part of our implementation service, I generally start by breaking the software down into its 4 main business functions: Sales, Design, Workflow Management and Accounting Integration. The next step is to identify which of these functions will be implemented (it’s just as important to identify any functions that will not be implemented as it is those that will be). Once the specific functions have been identified, we prioritize them from 1-4 from most important to least important. Starting with the highest item in priority, we review the specific features available for that business function of D-Tools and prioritize the most/ least important features available. We also rule out any specific features that will not be used. The result is a defined list of D-Tools features you plan to implement, a ‘scope’ of your implementation.

This may not seem like an important step, but trust me when I say that taking 1 hour to complete this step will save you many hours during the course of your implementation.

Objectives Definition
The next step in this process is to determine the definition of ‘successful implementation’. This varies from company to company, and is a critical element to this process. How will you know if the implementation is a success or not if you never really know what results you are looking to achieve in the first place? Identifying specific objectives also helps communicate to your team what results you expect through the use of D-Tools. All too often I encounter companies whose employees have no idea as to what the company management is looking to specifically achieve from using D-Tools. You do not want your team guessing on this.

I generally begin this process by having the user identify the top 3 objectives they have for D-Tools in their business. What areas of your process do you foresee D-Tools having the greatest positive effect? What were the original reasons you purchased D-Tools? Specifically, what are the top 3 objectives that if achieved, will result in a ‘successful implementation’ of D-Tools into your process? Carefully consider the specific areas of your process D-Tools will help optimize and don’t forget to reference the prioritized list of D-Tools functions/features from earlier in the process. The result might look something like this:

  1. Use D-Tools on every proposal to deliver a detailed proposal package as well as accompanying management reports.
  2. Use D-Tools to create accurate project documentation in Visio, including floor plan layouts, rack elevations and point to point schematics.
  3. Integrate D-Tools with QuickBooks to streamline the process of purchasing and invoicing our jobs. Remove the requirement for accounting to recreate each job’s equipment list in QuickBooks.

This list defines your specific goals for the software in your business and should be referenced throughout the implementation process, especially while creating the implementation plan. All implementation activities need to bring you closer to achieving these main goals. Any task undertaken by your implementation team that does not serve the fulfillment of these goals should be scrutinized. You probably don’t have a lot of extra time – don’t waste it focusing on non essential tasks.

I have found that taking this detailed look at the software tends to change some perspectives and reinforce others. What it always does is provide a foundation from which to build the rest of your implementation plan and provides a reference point throughout the process to gauge your degree of success.

The remaining posts in this series will help to paint a clearer picture for you on these concepts. Don’t forget to read the first post in the series.

Post 3 – The Implementation Plan
Post 4 – Successfully Executing the Implementation Plan
Post 5 – Ongoing Maintenance and Optimization

If you would like to receive some helpful implementation support materials from MED that support the implementation planning process described in this series of posts Click Here.