10 Tips for a Successful Core System Replacement
Selecting core system software is a challenging, time-intensive effort in which your company agrees to take great risk in an effort to modernize and improve. Such large projects are complicated further when legacy data must be converted and third-party vendors are involved. New software rollouts are not something that your team does every day, however with realistic expectation setting and proper planning you can feel assured that your core system replacement efforts will be successful.
As your company and staff get to know the selected software vendor both parties enter into a discovery period in which they learn each other’s goals and ideas. Thoughtful planning coupled with skilled execution will result in a successful implementation for all involved.
Ten Tips for Success
1. Set Expectations Upfront: Work closely with the vendor to share your vision, goals, and expected results. Setting attainable goals and having realistic expectations will align resources in your favor.
2. Communication: Keep the lines of communication open and encourage face-to-face communication, as opposed to over-relying on email or other electronic formats. Provide regular updates regarding the project’s progress in a consistent, summarized format, as this is the surest way to keep your people – and your project – on track.
3. Garbage In, Garbage Out: The GIGO principle is never more apparent than when it comes to legacy system data conversion. Rather than jumping into the technical aspects of conversion scripts, step back and analyze the data, map fields from the legacy system to the new system, and clean up any “bad” data along the way. Though it may not feel like a good use of time early in the project, your investment here will be rewarded later when your new system is not suffering from past mistakes, oversights, inadequacies, or negligence.
4. Cooperation & Teamwork: A successful implementation is a collaborative effort between your company and the vendor. It takes both sides to be successful, so both sides need to be able to work as a unified force in order to achieve a common goal. A new system is going to challenge past processes and procedures, and in many ways cause stress that can work against the blended team. Embracing a culture of change and encouraging cooperation for a shared goal cannot be overlooked.
5. Establish Milestones: It is unlikely that the project has no due date nor budget restrictions, so it is important to establish a schedule with intermediate milestones along the way. While the project management team (usually represented by a leadership from your company and the vendor) should set the milestones, let the team be involved in determining – and committing to – a the deliverables timeline. This technique establishes buy-in for the schedule and often ensures that the team understands the expectations set for them.
6. It Pays Not To Skimp on Testing: Testing is a crucial part of the core system replacement implementation and should not be taken lightly. This is your opportunity to gain an understanding of how the software will work for your business, but more importantly, it is the only time you’ll have to ensure that the new software is ready for primetime. During this effort, your team is evaluating the software, confirming correct configuration, and ensuring that it performs according to expectations. This is your chance to identify any issues that may need to be addressed prior to going live. The sooner you can identify these issues, the more likely your date-driven schedule will hold true. And remember, if any changes are made to the software or setup—run your tests again to ensure that your system is production-ready.
7. Train the Trainer: Well-trained users are happy users! As a bonus they will utilize the software more effectively, produce fewer errors, work efficiently, and increase the likelihood that they will meet business objectives. Identify enthusiastic, positive staff who will be around for the long haul and are skilled at learning and communicating ideas to others. Then, use these people to be your on-staff trainers. Invest the time it takes to provide these individuals with knowledge of the new system in order to prepare them to train others as the rollout progresses. By using your own staff to train other employees (rather than the vendors, strictly speaking), you will have further protected your investment, reduced the fees paid to the vendor, and given your company an opportunity to change processes or procedures along the way.
8. Hardware Readiness: Core system replacement is a large investment in both resources and licensing, but far too often the hardware environment in which the work will be done is overlooked or underpowered. One of the first steps in the process is preparing the environment. The necessary hardware and licensing needs to be procured and configured on the network, as well as establishing access for staff and vendor consultants to perform their jobs along the way.
9. Show Your Cards: Your core system replacement will require a high level of trust and partnership with the vendor. There is a lot of work to do in order to replace your system, and information regarding your business practices, preferences, and desired results must be made readily available to all parties. Be prepared to provide documentation, process flow diagrams, and other internal business details to the vendor in a timely manner to keep the project moving and on schedule.
10. Commitment from the Top: Change can be difficult, and many people require support and encouragement along the way. Commitment to change begins at the top of the organization and must be met with acceptance at every level within the structure. As much as is reasonable, involve your staff in decision-making, share with them the overall vision and direction, listen to their feedback, and work diligently to align their wants with the corporate objectives driving this change. With the right outlook, your implementation will be a successful endeavor and your staff will enjoy the ride.