If you have noticed that 50 percent or more of software implementations fail, you are probably ahead of the pack. What is important is to determine why implementation fails. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest reasons is lack of buy-in from operations, top management, workers and other key stakeholders. Another common reason is the lack of a solid implementation methodology that starts with strategy, establishes performance measures and targets for the improvement project, and ends with accountability for delivering against the targets.
This kind of methodology should focus on process. Here are some of the key elements to developing a sound participatory approach to the design and selection of an implementation process.
1. Form a steering committee of approximately nine to 15 people representing top management, operations, maintenance, union executive, IT, R&D, accounting, QA, sales/customer service, external consultants, and any other personnel deemed appropriate. It may also be beneficial to have representation from head office and/or other plants where applicable. The steering committee should be responsible for providing overall direction for the project, ensuring that appropriate resources are made available and "signing off" on deliverables.
2. Select a "project champion" who will act as the committee’s chairperson. The project champion should be a fairly senior individual to command the respect of both staff and management. He or she can then work closely with any consultants and the system vendor to set up the framework for the program, and will be responsible for the program throughout system implementation.
3. Establish task groups to study existing procedures and system requirements, develop recommendations, and implement improvements. Each task group should have a chairperson, who will likely be on the Steering Committee. Next, the task group can be responsible for studying a small area of the system. For example, one group could be responsible for work order control, another for inventory control, and a third for all other key systems.
4. Schedule approximately three "cast of thousands" workshops over a three to six month period, with task groups meeting on their own in between as required. The workshops should allow for a wider representation within the company — anywhere from 10 participants or more — to review the task group output. The outcome of the workshops and task group brainstorming sessions can then be redesigned as process flows and procedures.
5. Compile a list of potential vendors after reviewing the various options in light of the specifications developed by the task groups. Then obtain quotations from these vendors for evaluation by a "vendor selection committee", a sub-set of the steering committee.
6. The vendor selection committee must reach a decision on what criteria it will use to short-list vendor proposals. Just like short-listing a stack of resumes, the committee can use general criteria to fairly evaluate the written material received.
7. Each member of the vendor selection committee member should read through all of the proposals to get an overall feeling as to how the vendors responded. Don’t attempt to rate vendors in the first reading, but make notes on each proposal to remember your initial impressions. Then, each vendor selection committee member should, individually, attempt to short-list the proposals.
8. Next, the vendor selection committee meets to reach a consensus on the short list. Eventually, the group will agree on which vendors to include on the list. If at all possible, only one or two vendors should be short-listed to maximize the opportunity to analyze in detail their software solutions before a firm contract is in place.
9. Committee members should plan on checking three or more references from each short-listed vendor and be prepared to visit at least one to three vendor sites. Make sure to talk to as many people as possible during the site visits, not just the vendor’s own "project champion", who undoubtedly will have great things to say about their implementation process. Try to speak to the various users, from operations and maintenance, from workers to senior management.
10. Immediately following vendor demonstrations for each short-listed vendor, selection committee members must complete individual detailed ratings.
These detailed ratings can then be presented to the steering committee for discussion and approval. Make sure you consider status quo and/or upgrading the existing system as options, at least as a basis for comparison and a baseline for ROI calculations. The steering committee then approves the final vendor selection.
David Berger is the managing director of Grant Thronton Managment Consulting in Canada and the founding president of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada. You can reach David at dberger@GrantThornton.ca