by Bryan Morgan –
Enterprise application software, or EAS, is used to satisfy the needs of an organization rather than individual users. Deployment of EAS for an enterprise is intended to improve business operation or provide a competitive advantage, which should lead to positively impacting the company’s financial and operational metrics. EAS deployments are large in scope, complex by nature, and extend over long timelines. Enterprise applications usually have multiple integration points with complex architectures and dependencies. These projects have budgets in the millions of dollars and typically impact a large part of the organization’s user community.
There are several factors in an enterprise deployment project that have proven to be key contributors to the success of such projects. These factors may seem obvious, such as communication and involvement by key staff members, but these are often sacrificed in favor of saving time. When projects skimp on these key items multiple problems are likely to result, including:
- delays in meeting project dates and budgets
- disagreements on what the project is expected to deliver
- difficulty solving issues
- confusion on direction, work requirements, and status of the project
- lack of buy-in from team members and the end users
- additional stress and demands on team members and end users, particularly near the end of the project
- less satisfaction from the client on the final delivered product
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), nearly 70 percent of IT projects fail, are late or go over budget. Failure of such a project could hurt the enterprise deeply due to the time and costs that impact many stakeholders. So it’s important to do all you can to ensure that your enterprise application rollout is successful.
Successful deployment of enterprise software requires some balance of strategic and tactical attention to 1) the organizational or business change, 2) the solution and technology, and 3) the deployment approach. Below are some tips for making your deployment successful.
Thorough and Continued Business Ownership and Stakeholder Management — EAS deployments must be owned and sponsored by senior business leaders, and key business managers must be galvanized around the entire initiative. Involvement of key business users from all relevant process areas at all stages of the program, not just requirements-gathering and acceptance-testing, ensures that change is managed at all levels and is propagated throughout the enterprise through the proper channels. Changes to business processes and operations should be clearly documented and explained to the entire impacted business community in a timely manner.
Early and Clear Definition of Success Criteria — Success cannot be claimed unless it’s measurable and it’s measured. Clearly define and document the success criteria while developing the business case for the EAS initiative, including the process for measuring the criteria and the associated metrics. These criteria should be a combination of business and IT metrics and should consider customer and supplier/vendor satisfaction. This helps the deployment team to remain focused during deployment and to claim victory when achieved.
Comprehensive End User Training and Ensuring Continued Use — EAS applications are usually sophisticated and can overwhelm the business users, especially when replacing a solution that has been in place for a long time. These applications also satisfy different business needs for the different user groups. Some users will use these solutions for day-to-day activities, while others will use these solutions to analyze these activities across departments and/or over time and make important business decisions. User training should be in context for each user group to increase their system adoption and continued use. Training sessions should be planned and executed with user input and should be repeated to increase comprehension.
Solution and Technology
Diligent Selection of the Solution, Vendor, and Systems Integrator — Proper due diligence must be performed when selecting the proper product, vendor, and systems integrator partner(s). Short-term business and IT goals, as well as long-term objectives, must be considered throughout the evaluation and selection process. During the evaluation and selection process and before awarding contracts, sufficient time must be spent with the vendor and systems integrator partner to gain confidence in their abilities and foster relationships that will be critical throughout and after the deployment project.
Robust Enterprise IT Architecture Data Integrity — Enterprise application software lend themselves to highly sophisticated IT architecture and middleware. Many of these solutions are now cloud-based, which adds another layer of complexity with the demands of integration and security. System performance also becomes a primary factor in user satisfaction. The IT team of the deployment project must assess and validate the IT architecture so that it can scale up as time passes and data volumes grow. Strong data quality and complete data conversion, minimum business downtime and smooth transition to a new system are the hallmarks of successful execution. And as they say, practice makes perfect. The deployment plan and schedule should include sufficient time and resources for multiple mock runs for data conversions and cutover, with all activities and dependencies documented and rehearsed.
Minimizing Customization of Out-of-the-box Functionalities — The true advantages of using a commercial off-the-shelf application will be realized only if the enterprise keeps customizations to a minimum and leverages the embedded out-of-the-box functionalities provided by the solution. Customizing large, off-the-shelf applications introduces instability into the solution. Depending on the agreement with the vendor and/or system integration partner, support of these customizations may not be accepted or will be supported at an additional cost. Enterprise systems generally require frequent patching and regular upgrades, and this process can become more complex when customizations have been made to the system. Finally, the greater the customization, the greater the testing and support effort, which drives the cost even higher.
Manage Risk and Cost Using the Appropriate Deployment Approach — An enterprise deployment project’s timeline, budget, risk, and impact are determined by the implementation approach selected. Before initiating any enterprise deployment initiative, the organization must choose how to approach the implementation: “big-bang” versus region-based or department-based rollout, single instance versus “hub-and-spoke” model, full-system implementation versus “functional component approach,” and so on. The company should evaluate these options in the terms of their impact to business revenue, the number of users and their demographics, geographies, and languages, allocated budgets and desired timelines for the deployment, and then select the most appropriate option. Be honest and reach out to all possible organizational levels during the selection process to fully understand the enterprise’s appetite for risk.
Adequate Due Diligence while Program Scoping, Sizing and Resource Planning — Before making the final decision to initiate the deployment and diving into the details of the initiative, the project team should perform detailed project and resource planning for each project phase and for all the groups in the organization, system integrators and partners that will be affected or involved in the project. Various aspects of the scope of work should be defined in detail, such as geographical coverage, process coverage, user base, lines of business, etc. The deployment methodology should have clearly defined entry and exit criteria for each phase of execution.
Plan How the Project Will Be Managed — Create and share a Project Management Plan. This should be agreed upon with the project team and management. Document how changes will be handled, especially those that impact the scope, dates, budget, or resources. Document how issues will be managed and escalated. State how the schedule will be managed. Include all methods of communications that will be used for the project. Define and agree upon the project scope, including deliverables and assumptions, and ensure that all project team members understand the scope. Develop a schedule that documents the tasks that must be performed to complete all of the deliverables outlined in the scope. Be sure to include dependencies and assign names and due dates for each task. Manage the issues with a structure. Each issue should include a clear description, the name of who is assigned to own/resolve the issue, a due date, status, and priority. Share the issues list with the entire project team and get updates regularly from the owners of the issues, and from team members who may have items to add.
Communication is Key — It is well known that in projects experiencing problems, communication is often reported as lacking. Keep committees and teams informed. The Steering Committee or Leadership Team should meet at least once a month. The agenda should include a review of an up-to-date status report and should focus on any issues or concerns with dates or deliverables. Focus on high-priority issues that may have a negative impact on the project. Team meetings should occur weekly or as needed. Even a short conference call meeting can be effective to get everyone together. Status of the work being completed can be shared with all team members to assure everyone is in line with what is expected. Monthly or weekly Status Reports should be completed and shared with all involved individuals. The status report should include the status of milestones, recent work completed, what work is to occur next, high-priority issues, and changes to the budget, scope, schedule, or resources. This should not be a detailed account of activities, but rather a summary.
Successful EAS Deployments Are Critically Important
Today, companies rely on enterprise applications to remain competitive and thrive in the global economy. The success of any enterprise application deployment primarily comes down to three criteria: system adoption and continued use by end users, delivery on time and within budget, and overall business value delivered. Every EAS deployment is unique, and the challenges of executing these best practices will vary from project to project. However, as long as the essence of these practices is kept in mind, the chances of success are likely to increase.
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