There are many stages a computer system goes through during an implementation. At first, it is just an idea perhaps starting with frustration with the current system or a sudden new requirement that the current computer (if there is one) can’t handle. At this point, all you know is that you need a new system.
Then you start looking. Maybe you ask colleagues. Maybe you initiate a Request For Proposals (RFP), asking a number of vendors a series of questions about what their system can do, and inviting them to bid on your business. Maybe the system has already been chosen for you by a parent company.
Then come the demonstrations and the system becomes more real. You compare different products. You talk to consultants and the customers they offer as reference sites. You do your homework and you make your decision about which system to buy, but it’s not your system yet. Even though you may have signed a contract, taken delivery of the software and paid for it, your staff has not taken ownership of the system.
Next comes the detailed planning, the configuration, the set-up, the training and the conversion of the data from the previous system. What can the new system really do? What fits and what doesn’t? You add additional software. Maybe the new system doesn’t have Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) for orders and payments to large retail companies, so you add an EDI package. Maybe you need workflow to handle your online orders or document imaging to get rid of the tedious searches through filing cabinets, so you turn to iDatix.
At this point, you examine your internal processes. You look for formerly manual steps that the system can now do. With the workflow system now reminding people to submit their expense forms, move the person who used to phone all the salespeople to a higher value task, such as following up on customer payments.
By this time, your staff should start to feel like they own the system, that it is their responsibility to make it their own and work with its strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, after many years of implementations, my experience has been that they often don’t. All of a sudden, the old system looks better. The new one seems clunky. There’s always something that worked better before. The staff doesn’t remember the issues they had when the old system was new. They don’t remember the workarounds they had to come up with. They don’t have enough time or patience for the new system.
Naming the Beast
Accounting systems are complex. In a medium sized implementation, there may be over 500 data files. In a large one, there are literally thousands. When you layer on tax requirements, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, industry standards, vendor/customer complexities, etc. etc. even the best planned systems require extensive work to fit. One simple thing you can do to help your staff take ownership and really commit to the new system is to name it. It sounds like a small step, but it underlines the fact that it has been customized for your company. The system is no longer SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Sage or even Quickbooks, it is yours. So, if you were the Leamington Manufacturing Corporation for example, you might call your system Lexie (Leamington’s EXtended Information Environment) and have one of the more artistic members of staff find a suitable image. Give the system a good start by throwing a party, and when people complain, make sure to take their complaints seriously, but also ask them to have patience with Lexie. After all, she is the newest member of the team.
Re-posted with the kind permission of iDatix: http://www.idatix.com/insider-perspective-whose-system-is-it-anyway/