You Think You Bought the Wrong Solution? Re-implementation May Be the Answer

In today’s business milieu, the likelihood of successfully selecting and implementing corporate software, particularly large and complex solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), is very difficult to foretell owing in large part to the nature of those projects. Many uncertainties exist at the planning stage that none of the parties involved (software vendor, software implementer, if different, and the client) are able to fully discover and control. Vendors and implementers don’t know the client’s business well enough, while the clients aren't familiar with the software. Only aligned joint efforts of software providers and client managers, subject matter experts, and end users can lead to a successful system deployment—meeting expected business objectives within given budgets and timeframes. Another lurking issue in software implementation projects is that the degree of success of any given project can be measured only at the end of the road—mainly at the end of the implementation stage or after go-live.

A number of factors may cause ERP projects to go wrong from the very beginning:

  • “Amateur” clients may be swayed by “professional” software vendor salespeople (see my previous blog post on the subject), resulting in the purchase of a software product that may not be the best fit for the client’s business processes.

  • Poor communication among stakeholders may preclude proper selection of the required software. This may include preconceived notions on what system to choose, as well as bias on the part of stakeholders in favor or against a certain product, etc.

  • Poor discovery of software gaps that were not detected during the selection phase but become apparent at the implementation or go-live stage. Those gaps most likely will lead to software modification or customization requests, which may significantly increase the total project budget and delay the go-live date.

  • Inadequate review of all relevant client business processes at the early stages of software implementation, which may lead companies or implementation consultants to deviate from the original implementation plans in order to accommodate changes on the fly.

  • Failure of clients to understand that a successful implementation is a joint responsibility—one that is shared between the client and the vendor. Clients must take responsibility for making sure that their processes are understood by the vendor consultants and supported by the software system, the company’s infrastructure is technically ready to accommodate the new system, and employees of all levels are directly involved in the implementation project.

In some cases, you may end up with a solution in place that doesn’t do what you were expecting it and need it to do. The project in this case cannot be considered as successful, as its major objectives weren’t achieved. If this happens, you probably feel like you’ve chosen the wrong solution. In worst case, companies may be dreading starting a new selection project over from scratch. And based on our experience here at Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) helping clients with hundreds of software selection and implementation projects, this is the most common reason that organizations choose to replace a system with another that would better fit their business processes.

But you may not have to do it all over again. You may not have chosen the wrong solution after all.

What could have happened is that you chose the right solution and got a poorly managed implementation. A software product may still be fully capable of supporting whatever business processes you have in place, but the business may not utilize the system properly, the system may not be set up in an optimal way, or end users may not be using it correctly. That’s why TEC’s Selection Services consultants always ask clients to include their existing systems in their list of potential systems. Surprisingly enough, many companies that are looking for new corporate software discover that the solution they have selected is in fact capable of supporting their required business processes if implemented correctly. I certainly realize that it’s not that easy to cross the line and initiate a re-implementation project from scratch; however, it’s a matter of fact that re-implementation is associated with a number of advantages:

  • You already own the licenses, so you don’t waste the money you’ve spent and you don’t need to re-invest in purchasing software.

  • Your people are already familiar with the software, so further training would be significantly less costly and would be done faster.

  • After a few months of joint efforts, you have established a working relationship with the vendor, so you can work together much more efficiently.

  • Software vendor consultants and the client’s implementation team do not need to re-examine the client’s business processes.

  • You’re not starting from scratch, actually. All the project team needs to do is make the necessary corrections to an already existing project plan from the previous implementation—and they can start on this almost immediately.

  • As the majority of the preparatory work has already been done, the overall cost of the project would be lower than that of any alternate system implementation.

Based on multiple real-world examples that the TEC team has been involved with, software re-implementation projects do indeed happen, and this approach seems to work well in many cases (see example). So do not hurry to tear your hair out or fire your implementation team—there is a better way to handle the situation. You may have the right software—so you just need to implement it properly.
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