Take These 15 Steps to Avoid Agency Management Software Disasters

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Fine, so you can detect a person’s waist size through GPS data and then tweet them an appropriate, branded fashion tip as they pass a beacon. That’s all great, but can you actually send out the correct invoices for the campaign?

Fine, so you can detect a person’s waist size through GPS data and then tweet them an appropriate, branded fashion tip as they pass a beacon. That’s all great, but can you actually send out the correct invoices for the campaign?

The trend in marketing tech (martech) has always been to latch on to the sexiest new bit of kit while neglecting the core machinery of running an efficient business, the critical systems that do all the heavy lifting of accounting and project management. Maintaining inefficient business processes puts your clients at a competitive disadvantage as well as your own business.

But how do you reengineer your entire business without disrupting your day-to-day operations? And how can you avoid (surprisingly common) total meltdowns? The 2016 Panorama Consulting Report on enterprise software found only 57% of respondents viewed their new software as a “success”.

Here are 15 tips for a successful software implementation.

1. Development resources are precious – vendors will play ‘bait and switch’, putting their best people into the sales pitch and gradually swapping them out for less capable staff. The hard-won knowledge transferred to their team during the sales cycle is largely lost. Insist on the seller/doer model – the vendor commits a core team from start to finish, with free-of-charge on-boarding time for replacements.

2. Secrecy has no place in an implementation project. You should declare your budget up-front and challenge the vendor to say whether project objectives can be met within that constraint. Too good to be true? Don’t be afraid to challenge low as well as high estimates. Inevitably, something will have been missed.

3. Avoid the temptation to start the project with a lengthy sales cycle, trying to understand all requirements in order to obtain highly accurate estimates and commitments from vendors. Although this looks like an attractive idea at first glance, this detailed RFP approach is more likely to contribute to project failure, because the RFP and formative design will be based on as-is functions and processes which may be swept aside when improved by the new functionality.

4. Vendors are experts at extracting the truth from reluctant process owners. A day spent on functional analysis without your supplier’s input is a day wasted – they will have to go over it again properly and pose the awkward questions that your staff may not be brave enough to ask. Worse still, your subject-matter experts will resent having to cover old ground.

5. Beware consultants who rush straight into the solution design without having a complete understanding of the whole business function (including the unhappy path). Missed requirements can cause a complete redesign – these last-minute changes cost ten times more to fix than timely requirements because everything has to be recoded and retested.

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6. Interview every design stream lead and ask them the tricky questions about your processes. Find some little-known function (e.g. For a Microsoft Dynamics AX implementation look on Microsoft TechNet) and ask them to design a process that uses it. If they say that development is required, you have an amateur on your hands.

7. Prepare for requirements workshops with business scenario descriptions and use-cases. Anyone can document standard processes – you need to tackle all the nasty cases that burn money and time when badly handled. This is where your main ROI will come from.

8. Never agree to a vendor’s implementation contract without stated deliverables and a price for each deliverable – one for each business objective. Do not accept vague promises to ‘help’ you deliver, ‘assist’ your team or ‘manage’ the objectives. You are paying the vendor to design, build, configure, populate, rectify, deliver, implement and guarantee the performance of your system – accept nothing less.

9. Vendors make a sizeable margin on license sales and may be encouraged to sell into quarterly targets. There is no sensible way to predict your client license requirements before analysis, design and organizational change are fully defined. It is perfectly feasible to start the application build on a 10-user system and add more seats on a just-in-time basis. You will be paying support fees on all licenses from day one of their purchase, which has zero ROI – do not allow the supplier to pressure you into buying licenses ahead of time.

10. You must resource your project properly. Ask in your office for anyone with 50% time to spare to put their hand up… Do not delude yourself that a major software project can be accomplished solely by process owners and super-users who already have a day job. Yes – you must put your best people into the design effort.

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11. Do your data cleansing NOW. The single greatest cause of a go-live postponement is poorly planned and executed data migration. If you can’t sort out your data when the pressure is off, you don’t stand a chance when the heat is on.

12. Good people are expensive and vendors will want to spread their best people across several projects. They will not deliver optimum output on the odd days they are working for you. Insist that a team is put in place and stays in place for major work sprints.

13. Gear up adequately for the huge testing effort needed when your software build is delivered. If you can’t test software, configurations, migrated data and security settings promptly as they are being delivered, your warranty will have expired long before you find the defects.

14. Ensure that the vendor’s system can capture concise data for each business objective/work-stream, and insist on Monday-morning progress reports. These must state the percentage complete/time to finish. You must challenge slippage as soon as it occurs. Reserve the right to replace team members who don’t keep up.

15. Do not ignore project management – you will require a good project manager and so will the vendor – be prepared to finance both. Your project manager must be assertive and empowered to act decisively in order to get the project home. There is no space for sacred cows in an implementation.

Click for a free demo of AXAD, the Microsoft Dynamics AX system engineered for marketing and advertising agencies.

This article was written by Simon Barrett from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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