Why new software deployments are always worth it…in the end
It’s a terrifying prospect when your mid-sized business outgrows the capabilities of its old systems for one reason or another, but selecting and implementing new financial software is something that many companies experience every 6-10 years to support growth. Perhaps you are expanding internationally, broadening your product or service offering or adding links to your supply chain. The reasons are many and varied; it could be you forged a new partnership or made an acquisition that changed your operational needs. With the right catalyst, change is required.
And then it’s out with the old and in with the shiny new system. Finance professionals may know the excitement that comes with a new financial system deployment, but with this excitement, there will always be a certain level of apprehension. On the one hand, there’s the knowledge that the new software will bring clear benefits to the business – enabling expansion and giving you improved business insight, for example. But, on the other, there’s the acceptance that there’s a long road of deployment challenges to get through before you get there. That could be anything from navigating staff expectations through a plethora of internal communications through to migrating data from previous systems. Perhaps it means getting the new system to work with your nominal structures and ironing out any glitches as quickly as possible before they impact your customer relations. That’s just to name a few.
So, is it all worth it? Clearly it depends! The most important thing to do before you start looking at any new system – and the subsequent logistics involved in a software roll-out – is to take a step back from your day to day operations and try to establish if you are hurting enough from your existing system and processes to want to put yourself through it. It’s important to look at the market here, as the art of the possible will almost certainly have changed since you last deployed a financial system. If the benefits outweigh the pain, plan wisely to avoid the pitfalls that can strike when rolling out these types of projects.
Don’t let deadlines slip
At the beginning of the project, work with your provider to formulate a feasible plan for the roll out of the new system, including timelines and – most importantly – deadlines. Allow more time than you think you need, then stick to these meticulously. In many cases, customers will let one deadline slip, but the ripple effect this can have on the rest of the roll-out has the potential to be huge. How to stop deadlines slipping? Make sure all invested parties know and agree to the deadlines before starting, and ensure you have a determined and strong-willed project manager running the deployment at both ends.
Get staff buy in
When you’ve decided to implement new financial software, there’s nothing worse than staff either slipping into old habits or failing to embrace and make full use of the functionality you’ve invested in. That doesn’t just mean training staff before the software is fully rolled out, it also means taking the time to speak to them before you make the purchase, ensuring you have their buy in and that the software is truly something they can use and benefit from – and comes with the functionality to make their job easier too.
Our partner Amethyst Associates accredits their successful roll-outs to this. Lisa Miles, MD at Amethyst noted: “Always get ’buy in’ to begin with. We’ve seen lots of different approaches to project implementations. Some are very good – others less so – but a project’s success or failure nearly always comes down to the ‘buy in’ from a customer. That’s not the people to whom you’ve presented and demonstrated the solution. It means speaking to – and getting feedback from – the people who need to be using the product day in, day out – to identify how it can help their problems. Otherwise they won’t feel involved, and will not use the new solution – and the deployment will be doomed from the start.”
Know the business’ goals
It should almost go without saying, but, if you’re deploying a new finance solution, ensure you know the business goals inside out – and work closely with the vendor or partner implementing it to ensure they understand them too. This means everyone is aligned on the strategy for getting the solution in place – and know the priority functions that will be most important to get up and running. Greentree customer Comvergent worked closely with our partner Prerogative. The success of their deployment was in large part because the key stakeholder at Comvergent knew the business inside out. A true champion of the business, she therefore knew what was important and what wasn’t, understood all the processes, could rally staff internally to do what was needed – and was pragmatic about what was achievable in time and what wasn’t. That made project management so much easier for everyone.
The Turning Point
The deployment is always going to be the toughest part of a new project, but, ultimately, there will come a turning point when the software is up and running and you remember exactly why you were so excited to invest in it in the first place. This is the point where the rewards start to show – and the benefits, be it cost savings, simplified processes, automation, innovation, better customer service or increased productivity – should far outweigh any of the challenges.
Plan carefully and be aware of both the opportunities and challenges, and you can chart a smooth course through your next finance system upgrade, helping prepare your business for the next wave of growth.
Written by Harry Mowat, Greentree