Successful Technology Implementations

I recently turned a six month consulting project into a 1 month project…and I couldn’t be happier. The client saved ~$1.5 million and they were able to turn around ‘failed’ software implementation.

Why I’m telling this story

Before I get into the back-story, I want to share the reasons for telling the story. It isn’t to talk about how I’m a great consultant or how well I work with clients. I’m sharing this to provide an insight into how technology implementations can easily be deemed a “failure” and how easy it sometimes is to turn that failure into a success story.

Technology can be used to help an organization succeed…but only if implemented in a seamless manner. The ideal implementation would be to allow all processes to work in the exact same manner after the technology is implemented as before.

Of course, there are very rarely ideal implementations, but you can minimize the effect that new technology has on an organization during planning phases.

When poorly planned, technology implementations can wreak havoc within an organization. If technology is thrown into an organization without any thought to that organization’s processes and operating model, there will be a lot of headaches for the users of that technology.

Implementing technology isn’t an easy, step-by-step process that follows a predetermined task list. There must be a considerable amount of thought put into how the technology will integrate into the organization and how that organization can best use the technology. Without this type of planning, technology implementations will fail.

The “back-story”

The project supposed to be approximately 6 months of assisting a client with implementing a new HR software package. The new package was replacing another package that they had been trying to implement and use for more than a year.

The CIO who contacted me told me that they had gone through 3 different consulting companies while attempting to implement the original product and didn’t feel as though they had been successful.

The HR software package was originally implemented by the services arm of the software vendor. The implementation plan was their “standard” plan that had been used with many organizations with varying levels of success and failure. With this implementation, the software vendor didn’t provide any customizations (perhaps they weren’t asked to) and after the implementation was complete, the end-users didn’t feel that they could use the software to do their jobs.

After the software vendor failed, my client then hired a large consulting firm to come in and “redesign the HR system and processes” to make changes to the organization to fit the HR software package. This firm proceeded to fail miserably due to not understanding their client’s needs & expectations. My client then hired another consulting company and realized quickly that they would have the same problems.

After the fiasco with the previous implementations & consultants, the CIO contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in coming in to discuss their problems and help point them in the right direction. I’m not an expert in HR software at all…but I do understand technology and the need to adapt technology to meet business objectives….and apparently, that is exactly what they needed.

The company was on the verge of buying a completely new HR software package because they were tired of dealing with the old and thought the new system would make everything OK (this is rarely the case but it happens all the time).

The CIO asked me to come in and help select the vendor and help oversee the implementation to ensure that all requirements were met. I visited with the client, took a look at the original implementation plans and started talking with some of the key stakeholders. I quickly realized that the plans for the new software package were no different than the original plans.

The plans called for the organization to change their processes to match the new software rather than the software being implemented in such a way as to accompany the processes in place. This is usually a step in the wrong direction because you are asking your organization to change very rapidly with a new software package AND new processes.

I asked the CIO for 2 weeks to study the current system and see if there was a way to salvage it. He agreed and the HR team and I set about looking for a way to save the company ~$1.5 million in software licensing and implementation fees (on top of the almost $2 million already spent on the previous package and implementations).

I spent a few days with the HR team and realized that the old software, whose implementation had been deemed a failure, would work quite well for them if a few modifications were made to allow them to follow their original processes.

After a few days of discussions and thought, the HR team and I sat down with the CIO and shared our plan with him. I told him that the original implementation was handled fairly well but the original idea for the use of the new software was flawed. Instead of forcing the software and process changes on the organization, as the original plan called for, they should have implemented the new software and customized it to fit the needs of the HR team.

A new plan was then presented that called for the already implemented HR software package to be customized to match the requirements of the HR team. This work could be performed best by the software vendor instead of farming it out to another consulting firm.

Once the customizations were complete, the vendor would then train the HR staff on using the tool and spend a few more weeks working with the team to ensure they were able to use the software in the manner in which they required.

The plan was approved by the CIO and the software vendor. The vendor, who was happy to be back in the client’s good graces, agreed to split the cost of the customizations and to provide training and additional consulting services at a discounted rate.

Conclusion

I didn’t do anything special with this client. I think the biggest value I provided was an independent set of ‘eyes’ to look at the problem and evaluate the issues.

Instead of a spending six months on a project managing a large scale implementation of a new HR system, the project ended in 4 weeks. The client saved a considerable amount of money (~$1.5 million) while regaining the use of an underutilized software package that had been considered a failure. The software vendor was able to repair a relationship with a client, which seems to be something the vendor likes as they’ve called me to help them with a few other projects.

Successful technology implementations require a little common sense, a little thinking and some consideration of how the technology will affect the business. Project planning and management tools are also require, but if the upfront thinking hasn’t been done, there project may start out on the wrong foot.

[tags] Human Resources, Technology, information technology, technology implementation, HR Software [/tags]

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  • http://system-review.blogspot.com System Review

    Wow… any special tools or strategies you used to identify the problems during your discussion with HR team?

  • http://ericbrownpm.com Eric Brown

    No special tools…just basic communication and thinking through the issues.

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