Having supported customers through a variety of different system implementations, I’m often asked what you need to know before starting your own implementation journey.

Here are some of my top tips:

Digital transformation needs business transformation

Your implementation partner will provide you with a technical solution that meets your requirements, they will hold you to key milestones and deadlines to ensure that you get your solution live…but they won’t transform your business for you. Digital transformation of any type also involves business transformation so it is vital that you are ready to seize the opportunity in order to get best value out of your new technology.

Don’t underestimate the challenge of working out how your new technology will address your business challenges. You and your team will need to manage all of your own project activity, including:

  • Defining your operating model and culture
  • Making system design decisions
  • Testing your solution
  • Managing data extraction and transformation
  • Engaging your stakeholders
  • Training your people
  • Deciding how to support your new technology once it’s live.

Consider whether you need business transformation support to bridge the gap between your business needs and the technology being implemented.

Engage and protect your people

Your people teams are full of specialists – each of them knows best how to serve their particular set of customers. Giving them the opportunity to get deeply involved in your change project will increase the chance of you delivering solutions that truly meet customer needs. Think ahead about how you can share responsibility for leading change and give your people freedom to play with potential solutions.

Any system implementation will require a great deal of time and effort on behalf of your people. It will impact on their ability to do business as usual, so think ahead about what you can move out of the way – or what additional support you can bring in – to allow them to focus on building a brilliant solution and to protect them through the (often traumatic) process of change.

Plan to test extensively

Used effectively, your testing stage can be an opportunity to make sure your solution is fit for purpose and a key part of your training and engagement approach.

To be certain that you have a fully working solution, you will need to consider every possible path through every task and process – both the happy and the unhappy paths.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) gives you a fantastic opportunity to engage with real life users. By designing this well, you will gain insight into actual user behaviour, get feedback from a range of different perspectives and test out your training and guidance materials.

All of this will take a lot of time and coordination, so you will need to plan ahead and make space for this. Thorough testing will pay dividends in terms of solution knowledge and confidence – as well as positive messages about your new solution being shared around the business.

Don’t underestimate data work

Moving data between disparate systems is complicated – fields have to be matched up, data has to be cleansed, decisions about data retention have to be made and transformation approaches have to be developed.

Given that you are handling personal and confidential data that directly affects people within your business, you don’t have the luxury of a margin of error here. It’s also likely that you will need to load multiple versions of your data through different stages of your project. Whatever approach you come up with for extracting, transforming and loading your data will therefore need to be repeatable.

Engaging strong data skills within your project team from the outset will set you on course for successful, rather than stressful, data migration.

Start thinking about your support model

Your go live date might seem miles away but it will come round quickly! On day one, your customers are going to have questions and need support…just at the same time as your people are heavily involved in cutover activities.

Working out what your system support model will look like in advance is critical to ensure that your customers have a positive experience from the outset.

Identifying who needs in-depth system knowledge early will allow you to maximise their exposure to your implementation specialists and to build decisions made throughout the project. A confident support team will be able to manage and resolve customer issues effectively. This will protect your reputation and ensure that everyone benefits from your brand new solution.

Cara Halliwell is Director of CE Change Ltd, a change consultancy specialising in people, process and technology transformation. For further information about the services we offer, click here.