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How to implement a new software system

The efficiency, productivity and innovation for an organization can stem from implementing the latest software applications in a timely and effective manner. This represents a major challenge for many. Research shows that only 29% of software implementations are rated a success, and one in five are seen as a failure. This blog outlines a structured approach to successful software implementation.

Explaining software implementation

Every company uses software every day and each wants to make the most of the IT investments it has made to drive their business and better serve their customers. With an increasing focus on maximizing digital technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully implementing and deploying the latest software is essential. You can define software implementation as the processes and procedures needed to take software applications and tools from planning and development to the production stage.

You can find a more in-depth software implementation definition by reading our blog on what is software implementation?

The process of software implementation can seem like a daunting task. Software has become more complex so it follows that implementing software will also have increased in complexity.

Organizations that fail to plan and achieve effective software implementation will not gain the full value from the new system and are likely to waste a great deal of resource on an implementation that is poorly adopted and doesn’t meet their business needs. Evidence suggests that failure rates are actually rising.

How to implement a new software system

OpenText Professional Services has over 25 years of successfully implementing Enterprise Information Management (EIM) solutions for companies across the globe. In that time, the team has successfully completed more than 40,000 implementations. Core to this success is a project management methodology designed specifically for software implementations. The structured approach systematically takes you through each stage of the process from initial project initiation to delivery.

Initiate

In the Initiate phase, the goals, roles, budgets, timelines and governance are established and clearly documented. The key stakeholders are brought together for the project kick off to ensure a common direction and commitment. In many instances, a steering committee will be established. From the kick-off, a Project Initiation Document (PID) is created that sets out how the project is to be managed including resources, responsibilities and how to measure outcomes. Successful software implementations will also develop a Project Charter that establishes governance policies and procedures from the outset.

Control

The Control phase spans the entire software implementation project and is designed to ensure the project stays on track and any issues are identified and addressed as early as possible. It puts in place mechanisms for monitoring and managing all aspects of the project such as project risks, development issues, required actions and decisions, change requests, budgets, and commercials are monitored through the life of the project. KPIs established in the Initiate phase and project status are regularly reported to the steering committee.

Execute

The Execute phase is broken down into four elements:

  • Design: This involves a detailed analysis of features and capabilities to be implemented – including all custom code and integrations to other systems – as well as setting out system usage and the underlying process affected. For this, a Solutions Design Document is developed and an Acceptance Test Plan (ATP) is created that involves real-world use cases of how your staff will actually work with the new system.
  • Build: This involves developing and delivering the software to meet your specific business needs. The new system is built to the specifications set out in the design phase with milestones established for progress and delivery. The build phase should include structured flexibility to enable change to the solution and project as required. In addition, the project should establish how the migration of existing data and code will be achieved. Finally, software testing models are developed and implemented.
  • Acceptance Test: In this phase, the Acceptance Test Plan created in the Initiation phase is executed – allowing for any changes necessary due to alteration in the build. Often a readiness review is conducted to ensure the plan will meet the goals of the project. From there, acceptance testing is rolled out across the users affected. In most cases, acceptance testing will be closely aligned with wider organizational change management programs. It is important to roll out the acceptance testing early as testers will often be users within the business. By testing early users can dedicate their time effectively without disrupting any day-to-day business needs. Testing can range from an hour or two to several weeks depending on the complexity and number of users.
  • System Deploy: With System Deploy, the final system is moved from testing into production. The transition and live operation are closely monitored to ensure a smooth migration or upgrade as well as to guarantee the live system is performing to levels expected and that user adoption is high.

Close

The final stage is to Close the project after the software has been successfully implemented. The Close stage includes the project wrap up meeting and final status reports. Customer questionnaires and surveys are sent close to the go-live date and measure the effectiveness of the management of the engagement. Importantly, it should also put in place a continuous improvement element that establishes a future roadmap for enhancement and optimization.

Selecting your software implementation model

For most large software implementation programs, a traditional, linear approach is deployed that handles the Execute phase as a series of chronological steps. In this model – often called the waterfall model – one step follows the next to reach the desired outcome (See Figure 1).

There are many benefits to this software implementation approach as it allows for a great deal of structure in each stage and the ability to ensure that each stage has been successful before moving to the next. However, this benefit of structure can also be its greatest weakness as it needs to follow the same approach each time, which can add a significant amount of time to the software development and implementation process.

However, software implementation is far from being a new discipline and structured approaches have been developed that are proven to help achieve successful outcomes.

Waterfall model for software implementation demonstrating the four steps in the execute phase.
Figure 1: Software implementation: The waterfall model

To address the challenge of large IT projects taking months or years to deliver, a range of agile development methodologies have become increasingly popular. To accommodate these newer development techniques, software implementation models have evolved to introduce a phased approach that mirrors some of the structures of agile. In this model (See figure 2), the Execute phase becomes a series of discrete activities designed for smaller and more regular delivery of some of the software components and benefits. Each of these discrete cycles is handled as a separate sprint with very lean timescales.

Phased model demonstrating an agile approach for software implementation.
Figure 2: Software implementation: The phased model

Why partner with a provider for software implementation?

Taking a structured approach to software implementation will dramatically enhance your ability to successfully deliver the new system. However, it remains a challenge that requires skills and knowledge in both the software itself and project delivery designed for that software. Many organizations choose to work with a provider and, increasingly, look to the benefits of partnering with the software vendor themselves.

For example, the OpenText Professional Services team guides organizations through each stage of a project lifecycle and offers industry-skilled, product-certified implementation consulting services experts across its entire solution portfolio. The team either works closely with an organization’s existing team or takes on complete project management when required.

When looking to partner with either the software vendor or another third-party provider for software implementation, they should be able to deliver the following capabilities:

Installation and configuration

The best software implementation providers will help you accelerate system build using specialist tools and processes that ensure faster time to value, whether implementing pre-packaged and pre-configured or bespoke solutions.

Integration and customization

When working with the software vendor, you have the extra benefit that they are uniquely positioned to understand how to customize the software to your specific needs and integrate with other enterprise applications to maximize product functionality.

Migration and digitization

Leading service providers are equipped to help you target and migrate data to the new systems and make it easier to use and understand with analytics integration.

Project management

The provider will leverage experienced Project Managers to steer projects and provide guidance on best practice software implementation methods.

 Why partner with OpenText Professional Services?

Today, OpenText has the world’s largest pool of EIM experts certified on OpenText products and solutions. We have a broad global footprint, serving clients in more than 30 countries. Our network includes staffand a set of trusted strategic partners that augment our own teams around the world. We often work as global teams integrating onshore and offshore resources from our Centre of Excellence. In addition, we provide One Team service where our Professional Services team works together with the product teams, support and field groups as one team that addresses your business needs.

Learn more about  OpenText Professional Services.

Author: Larry Steponik

OpenText Professional Services

OpenText Professional Services offers the largest pool of OpenText EIM product and solution certified experts in the world. They bring market-leading field experience, knowledge, and innovative creativity from experience spanning more than 25 years and over 40,000 engagements.

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