Implementing new technology can be challenging. If not done correctly, it can create big problems for your business, causing delays, productivity losses and budget overruns.
Once you decide on the system, it's important to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Steps for successful systems implementation
Follow a well-tested information system implementation process to minimise the disruption to your business. This process involves:
- Communication - staff need time to adapt to changes. Explain your reasons for the new system and the benefits you expect it to achieve, to get everyone's buy-in for the project.
- Project kick off - good project management is key to ensuring that the implementation goes smoothly. Establish your project team, assign roles and responsibilities, and create and distribute a clear implementation plan.
- System installation and configuration - your IT supplier will typically install the system, but your in-house IT team (if you have one) may be involved. During installation, configure the system, set up the necessary outputs or reports (eg weekly sales reports, monthly debtor reports, etc), test them and have them ready to run.
- Change management - staff can struggle with change, get confused over new workloads or duties, or resist new technology. It is important to manage this carefully and follow best practices for change management.
- Staff training - your staff may need system-specific training to operate the new system. During their training, you may need cover for their regular tasks. You may also need 'top-up' training at a later stage to reinforce the initial sessions. You can run user-acceptance tests as part of the training package.
- User support - staff using the new system will need ongoing support. You may choose an in-house helpdesk or an external solution. See IT skills and support for your staff.
- Data migration - you may need to migrate data from your old system to the new. Prepare this data as early as possible. Pay close attention to the format, content and volume, as all can cause issues with the new system. Depending on your project, you may want to keep two sets of data for a while (on old and new system), in case you run into any follow-up issues.
- Contingency planning - IT system implementations don't always go according to plan. Prepare actions for possible scenarios of things going wrong to avoid disruptions. Learn about business continuity and crisis management.
- Scheduling go-live - plan to bring your new system live during a slow period for your business or, at the very least, take account of things like seasonality, staff leave, skill readiness, support available, etc. Make sure you have sufficient resources in place when you go live.
- Monitoring risks during implementation - work with the supplier during implementation, as well as when the system goes live to ensure that they quickly address any gaps and concerns.
- Checking security - evaluate any security concerns that a new system can cause. Carry out a security audit to check the system for weaknesses and, if necessary, consider encryption mechanisms to protect the system's data. Read more on cyber security for business.
- Measuring outcomes and results - set clear metrics to measure the success of the implementation. See how to measure performance and set targets.
Potential pitfalls of new IT system implementation
System implementations are often derailed because businesses:
- fail to plan the project realistically
- underestimate timescales to analyse, design, plan, test and execute the change
- manage the project poorly
- fail to support staff with training or change acceptance
- drag out the project and overspend
- fail to define roles and responsibilities of providers, stakeholders and key staff
Help with IT system implementation
Few businesses have enough expertise to implement new IT systems on their own. Suppliers of IT solutions can give advice, although they are likely to favour solutions that they provide. In many cases, they can customise their solution to meet your particular needs.
Alternatively, you can use an independent consultant to help you review, choose and implement an IT solution. See how to choose an IT supplier for your business.