A software implementation is one of the trickiest operations for a company. Especially when the new software is very comprehensive and is rolled out to multiple locations.
The buying decision has been made and implementation is imminent? Now you and your team face a complex set of tasks with numerous potential mistakes and stumbling blocks. Without sound planning, well-thought-out training, smooth data migration, and a perfectly timed rollout, the introduction of the new software is on shaky ground.
In the following, we present seven project phases for successful software deployment. This can serve as a kind of blueprint that facilitates this project.
The 7 project phases of software implementation
Before you deploy any software, keep in mind - as with any large-scale project - that you will probably be confronted with unforeseen problems. Sound planning minimizes the risk of errors during software implementation and forms the first phase of the project.
Phase 1: The script
Draft a script or storyboard that will serve as a common thread to guide you and your team through the process. This should include the following points:
- Site plan: This serves as a guide for software implementation. It includes delivery checklists, hardware system checklists, configuration checklists, and contact information for all stakeholders. Also, establish schedules, system overviews, and scopes. Each step of the implementation is meticulously timed here.
- Task assignments: This is the pulse of the software implementation. Record who has which responsibilities and how communication channels run.
- Roll-back plan: Leave a back door open that leads back to the legacy system. This allows you to roll back in the worst case. However, you should also define a "point of no return" from which the new system must run no matter what.
- Smoke test: A smoke test is a dry run that tests the most important functions of the system in a short period of time. Regularly test the functionality of the most essential processes. This applies both during implementation and after roll-out.
Phase 2: Introduction to the users
There are two different approaches to software implementation. Decide in advance!
- Big bang: Here you introduce the new software to everyone all at once - for example, on a weekend or over a holiday. However, the big bang method is only suitable for software solutions that require pre- or post-training of the employees. Big bang is mainly used when there is already an old system, data is "in motion" in this old system, you cannot or do not want to synchronize the systems, and cannot migrate the data in rolling stages (e.g. department by department or office by office). A big bang works when you can switch off the old system at some point, migrate the data once, and switch on the new one so that you do not maintain two competing data worlds.
- Iterative implementation: Here the software is released per department/user group. This type of implementation is significantly less risky but requires significantly more planning. The old and new systems must run in parallel for a certain period which increases complication and workload for the IT and support teams. It is advisable to first launch a test introduction with a limited user group and then implement the experience gained there for the entire company.
Phase 3: Training
Every system is only as good as its user. Sound training is the key to success. A proven approach is to first train a small group of "key users" who then train other employees as multipliers in a cascade system. Ideally, training key users should be completed shortly before the software is introduced. Conduct regular follow-up training sessions and open feedback opportunities for the users.
Phase 4: Data migration
Transfer of existing data must be planned down to the smallest detail. Good preparation is essential. Work out a repeatable data migration process that you run again and again in a test environment to find and resolve any problems before going live. This process can be very time-consuming and should be tackled at an early stage.
Sometimes the legacy system is switched to a "read-only mode" for a pre-rollout in order to migrate data with minimal risk because the data in the legacy system cannot change mid-migration.
Phase 5: Roll-out
Software rollout is usually not an overly long process, but it does entail many opportunities for mistakes. Follow these seven steps:
- Document the roll-out process and quality assurance test criteria in detail beforehand. Positive test results must be achieved before rollout can be signed off.
- Install the software on the relevant systems.
- Migrate data outside business hours - weekends or holidays - if the migration affects business operations. This depends strongly on the system and the migration.
- Conduct a “smoke test” where essential processes and system functionality are tested. After a successful test, go-live can take place.
- Transfer responsibility from the project team to the operating organization.
- In the pilot phase, carefully monitor data quality, performance, etc.
- Patches must be applied immediately to correct any errors that occur.
Phase 6: Support
In this phase, the project team hands over the direction of the system to the responsible department / person. Set up at least three different support levels – both internally (the business) and externally (the vendor).
Phase 7: Analysis
To be able to react immediately to problems after software implementation, constantly monitor the new software / system. Network load, memory consumption and system load, user behavior, data quality, and process throughput times must be observed. All those indicators contribute to optimizing the new software.
Further success factors of a software implementation
The key component of an optimally executed software deployment is you and your team. Early involvement of the IT department is a key success factor.
It is essential to inform and bring all project participants on board early on and not overload them with additional tasks. Implementation can only be managed correctly if every team member is focused on the task at hand. Unless absolutely necessary, be sure to avoid staff turnover during the software implementation. Document and justify your decisions and communicate them with your team. If you get stuck, call on external expertise.
During the implementation of our empower® for Office 365, our experts are of course at your side and help your software introduction succeed - from customizing to user training to final roll-out.
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