Essential Steps to a Software Implementation
Any time an organization chooses to begin using a new software solution one of the biggest factors to ensure success is to follow a proper implementation process.
Over the years, Coyote Software has spent a lot of time implementing solutions. In our experience, there are 6 key steps that are essential for any successful implementation. In our process, the steps follow in order but may run concurrently to other phases.
Step 1. Preparation
Every implementation needs to start with a preparation phase. This step sets the foundation for the project. This is where the project teams are established, key staff are identified and the process for the project is outlined. We like to start with a kick-off meeting where the workplan is introduced, project risks and contingency plans are discussed and timelines are established for the project.
When determining staff to participate in the project, we recommend that clients choose an implementation coordinator responsible for project management and to act as the main point of contact. It’s also important to identify key staff to act as ‘super-users’ to participate in the project. The client will also need to include data verification specialists to ensure the application meets the agency’s service delivery needs and that any data being migrated to the new system is accurate and complete. Lastly, management needs to participate to ensure the direction of the project maintains alignment to the organizational goals.
Step 2. Planning and Analysis
There needs to be a phase dedicated to planning and analysis. For most implementations, a business analyst should work with the client to perform a process-fit analysis. This should include looking at the entire process of how the organization provides their services from intake to exit, including what documentation is necessary through each stage of client service. A critical component of this step is an analysis of any necessary statistics or reports the organization is responsible for generating.
This stage helps determine exactly how the system needs to be configured to meet the client’s needs and if there are any custom development pieces required.
Step 3. Data Configuration and Conversion
This is where the configuration and conversion of historical data can be performed to adapt the solution to the client’s needs. The configuration details should be communicated to the client as well as any potential impacts to the their workflow – with the goal of improving processes, not complicating them. This will also be the stage that any data migrations included in the project will be evaluated and tested.
Step 4. Training Phase
All users should be able to use the software competently and confidently. For larger organizations, a Train-the-trainer style training is a great way to make sure there is a set of key users that staff can go to for assistance as well as to provide training when onboarding future employees. Training should be as relevant as possible to help staff understand exactly how they’ll be using the system and to avoid overwhelming them with unnecessary information.
Step 5. Formal Installation Phase
This is the point where the system is set up and the client can begin to access everything for testing and training purposes. This is also the point where migrated data is uploaded to the application.
Thorough testing is key here. The verification specialists are essential in this stage to ensure data has migrated properly and the system is indeed configured to meet the goals established in the preparation stage. This is where final system tests, such as testing connectivity with multiple sites, can also be performed to ensure a smooth go-live.
Step 6. Go-Live
The final step should include stand-by or on-site assistance to deal with any immediate issues uncovered as the system goes live for everyone to use. Potential needs could arise for hardware or software glitches, quick reminders or spot training, conversion issues, and general support.
Following go-live, we will always transition the client from the implementation team to the account management and technical support team to make sure there is a mechanism in place that ensures success moving forward.
Lastly a critical piece to any successful implementation process should be change management. This needs to be incorporated in every step of the implementation. New systems will always result in changes to the processes staff are familiar with. It is important that these changes are identified and that staff members are familiar and comfortable with their new processes. To help staff become more comfortable with the solution, the client must be supportive of their staff – this may mean more direct training to achieve a higher degree of familiarity, reminders or ‘cheat sheets’ that the staff members can reference later and a lot of communication to ensure staff are aware of the new system and what to expect.
A thorough implementation process is the best way to ensure the application will meet your needs and align to your organizational goals. Coyote Software has over 25 years’ experience with implementation projects, if you’re looking for guidance on an implementation contact us.
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