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Key Steps in Selecting and Implementing Systems

Finding a new system can bring about both a flow of opportunity and a flood of anxiety.  Every construction company at one time or another will need to replace a system or put a new one in place.

Considering the rapid technological change in the industry, companies must stay current. Since change is inevitable, the question becomes how to select and implement the right system while staying under budget.

Select the Right System

A perfect implementation will fail if the wrong system is selected. With so many different systems on the market, how can a company find the system that fits its needs? There are several key steps in picking the right system.

  1. If the company does not have a cross-organizational technology council, the first step is to establish one. Make sure the council has people from all areas of the company. Systems chosen by accounting and IT do not have an organization-wide perspective or buy-in. The technology council helps provide diverse viewpoints;
  2. take a close look at all system that the company’s current systems;
  3. determine which of these systems are meeting the company’s needs;
  4. decide which systems need replacing and/or what new systems are needed;
  5. rank these systems based off a priority matrix;
    1. global requirements:
      1. technology architecture;
      2. support infrastructure from vendor;
      3. system data accessibility; and
      4. integration ability.
    2. company specific requirements:
      1. business process fit; and
      2. processing and information effectiveness.
  6. after identifying highest priority need, use the general technology priority matrix and system specific needs to drive the selection process;
  7. identify a project champion, ideally an executive who will provide support during the selection and implementation;
  8. identify the team lead, full team and project charter with milestones and deliverable dates;
  9. use industry connections and trade shows to identify vendors;
  10. perform preliminary research on vendors to determine if any can be eliminated before sending out an RFP;
  11. send out detailed RFP with strict response times to vendors that pass the first level of filtering;
  12. once the vendors have responded, check for any that do not reply in a way that does not answer the detailed RFP;
  13. set up a preliminary demo with project team to narrow to final two to three vendors;
  14. once the final two to three vendors are determined, request a detailed demo from these vendors using company’s data and process to determine fit; and
  15. have these demos done directly with project team and technology council.

At the end of this process, the correct vendor should be clear. There are lots of steps in selection, but setting up internal sponsorship, a project team and performing due diligence will help to make the implementation phase much smoother. Once the system is selected, update the project charter and milestones to determine the action steps needed to implement. Assign someone to act as the project manager and task them with keeping the timeline up to date.

Every implementation has issues, but with the correct team and objectives the chance of success increases. The focus during implementation is not allowing project scope creep. If more ideas come up during the implementation that are not mission critical, then set those up as phase two items. Add these items after completion of the base implementation.

During implementation, focus on getting buy-in from users. Make sure the users are represented on the project team and encourage their feedback. By involving them in the project, the level of buy-in to the system will be higher.

Also, consider the company’s internal resources for implementation versus the third-party support. Usually it makes sense to have third party help with system implementations. It is important to find the right partner to help inform decisions and assist with integration, documentation and training.

After the system is in place, know that going live on the system is only the beginning. There are issues during implementation, but systems usually fail because users do not buy into the value of the system. The key is training, training, training. Once training is complete, provide solid support and continue to asses and add new features to the system. The right system will have more features than can or will be implemented in the beginning. This allows for companies to leverage the system further over time.

In summary, the key items are:

  • having a cross-organizational technology council;
  • having clear project scope and milestones;
  • using a priority matrix to identify system needs;
  • having a multi-stage demo process for system selection; and
  • train, train, train post-implementation.

Even with these steps, some system implementations will fail. Proper due diligence up front will give companies a higher probability of success.

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