Why plan for a systems transformation, why not get straight into it?
When recently implementing a new core inventory management system for a retail business, it was critical we had a strong plan in place to help with the transition, which took place over a 7 week period to their initial go-live.
There were four core business roles that were about to drastically change how they went about their tasks, and by planning out their daily, weekly and monthly activities to consolidate a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves based on their needs, we were able to test and validate ‘before’ and ‘after’ business activities in the trial system prior to going live. This helped to mitigate any risk to their productivity during the transition.
A solid plan meant we were able to account for some critical business processes and create an internal quick reference guide for each role that supported them during the transition, and beyond.
Start with clear problem definition
Before heading into a tech implementation, we always like to work with the business leaders to clearly define the ‘why’ and objectives of the project. One way to help articulate this to the broader team is to reflect on the business strategy and associated technology roadmap, as well as what it may mean for your people in their roles. This helps the team prepare for what is coming.
If the objective of the project is clear, it’s easy to take it to the next level of detail to map out a detailed list of priorities and your team’s prioritised ‘hit list’ when setting up your new system, and to define a baseline project schedule, so you can work to key dates and milestones along the way.
Note – typically, we suggest at least allowing 4-7 weeks for your day 1 go-live, to allow enough time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, so to speak!
Save the re-work later, work on solution design first
Before even starting going deep in configuring and setting up your new system, we find it useful to map out a hypothesis or early view on how the system may fit in with your business. Key items to review include:
- Systems architecture – how will your systems fit together, what will remain, what will go?
- Integration planning – how will your data flow from one system to another, where will it be input, and where will it sync to?
- High level process mapping – at a high level, how will work flow into your organisation, through each key system, and across key roles as work is completed and closed off for reporting purposes?
- Choosing 3-5 items to be a ‘representative sample’ of your business – when first testing the system, we recommend selecting a sample data set that represents your business, taking it end to end in the platform while you work through your prioritised hit list with your team. This helps to confirm the optimal way of using the platform for your specific needs, using data that looks like your business.
Testing and validating your setup
Now you have a solution design starting point, now is a good time to start your free trial for the system (if they offer one), to maximise your time.
Working with your key staff members, or tech champions as we like to call them, set up your ‘representative sample’ of business data in the system, review the high-level settings, and perhaps work through any quick start guides the platform offers. For example, WorkGuru offers a minimum configuration guide, as well as the complete end-to-end workflow to implement their software that you can use as your checklist!
The main focus here is to add enough data into the system to validate your needs and requirements and work with your key staff, advisors and software support team to work out the best configuration for your business.
This phase typically takes around 2 weeks as a starting point, and key outcomes include understanding your business needs and how well the solution will meet those needs (vs. using a workaround process or other system), how your processes will be impacted, and what role each staff member will play in the system with their access. Some documents and items you may want to have updated at the end of this stage include:
- System document templates – e.g. quotes, invoices, job sheets, pick lists and more
- Reporting and custom fields – validating you can report on what you need
- Quick reference guide for each person’s role – key dot points for ‘before’ and ‘after’ business activities, which will be a key reference for internal staff training
- Implementation and roll-out plan – what will be the key training sessions, access levels and data migration requirements needed to get to go live with your new system? Now is the time to validate your timelines and key dates and adjust as necessary. For example – key dates around known staff leave, payroll, business activity levels, tax and end of financial year/reporting periods to consider for go-live
Team training, go-live and beyond
We recommend while your representative sample dataset is in the system, to use this as a key reference for your team training. By splitting your team into key ‘roles’ based on what they need to do in the system, you can tailor your internal training with the broader team based on what each staff member needs to know, to reduce chances of overwhelm. You know your people best, so plan accordingly for each individual’s specific needs when it comes to learning. Some considerations include:
- Setting expectations on key dates and timing with your team on training, go-live and beyond, and what it means for them in their day-to-day activities, roles and responsibilities
- Reaffirm the ‘Why’ or objective of the project, and acknowledge that sometimes it is a ‘hockey stick’ curve learning a new system – it will be challenging at first, but before you know it, you won’t know how you were without your new system and improved, streamlined processes!
In-person Vs. online conference call (e.g. Zoom) vs. quick videos (asynchronous communication)
- In Person – sometimes this is just the best way to train certain team members, and ensures a level of engagement that is hard to get via video conference and calls
- Online – If your business is used to being online and working remotely, screen sharing training is a great way to get each person in front of their computer, and record the session for those that can’t make it, or to share the recording post training for later reference and another item you can add to your quick reference guide. TIP: If you use Zoom, for example, you can record locally to your computer as a MP4 file, or save to the cloud if you have a paid subscription
- Quick Videos – Using a tool like Loom, for example, you can record quick, less than 5 min videos and share a link to the video to showcase how certain processes will work for the team, and collate these in your documentation, if aligning specific times for meetings is a challenge
Quick reference guide
- Summarise the key processes and business activities, and how these relate to steps in your new system. Include updated diagrams, such as the ones worked on in your design stage, to assist in the understanding, as well as links to any videos you have created, and links to the platform’s self-paced training documentation, if relevant
Quick reference guide Data migration plan, and open orders
- Work with your team, advisors and solution provider to come up with a data migration plan to load in your data prior to go-live. For example, for an inventory system, key pieces of data prior to go-live typically include: products, suppliers, customers, open quotes and jobs, staff access, and any work in progress
We hope we’ve helped give you some ideas to get your own ‘ducks in a row’ when it comes to business systems implementation planning. A solid plan means you have the greatest chance of success, maintaining business continuity and working with your people on adjusting to the change.
If you are interested in learning more about system transformation and execution, you can check out our definitive online course on the same topic, which will guide you over 7 weeks to go-live, step by step..
If you’d like to download the PDF checklist and our go-live framework, you can do that here.
About the author
Josh is an engineer, who has moved into the world of business and tech consulting. He’s had experience at the “big end of town” (roles at Mondelēz International, Cadbury & Deloitte) as well as over 500 SaaS implementations with business owners, leaders and their growing businesses (with BlueRock and his own Apparatus Quo business).
Josh loves introducing the capability of the “big end of town” to the growing small and medium business, and keeping across new developments in the industry for what is coming next.
He’s passionate about what he does in his advisory work with business leaders, as it’s so important to facilitate adoption and use of technology in a sustainable way. The more people involved, the more considered the approach needs to be to take them on the journey. Josh naturally takes quite a structured approach to his work, and hopes to pass on some great frameworks, guidance, tips and tricks that will help others on their journey, too.
During his downtime, Josh loves to cook, play squash, hang out with his partner Felicia and his two whippets – just ask him for dog photos and he’d be happy to oblige!