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4 Resolutions for Business Solution Implementation Projects

Solution-implementationAt the beginning of a new year, many people create lists of resolutions or goals for the future. Just like you, companies make resolutions, too. Sometimes companies devise intricate ways to monitor and measure results against these goals. Yet, even with these seemingly adequate preparations in place, one continues to hear and read about project failures with nearly 50 percent of enterprise system implementation projects deemed failures. After a poor go-live, there is plenty of finger-pointing, usually at the external implementation and vendor team.  But, from my perspective, there is also a significant amount of blame that should be shared by the user organization.

So as a CPA and consultant, I would like to offer some resolutions for companies to keep when implementing a new computer system or undertaking an upgrade effort. These resolutions are based on an aggregation of observations during my work troubleshooting and resolving problems after the fact, and are not unique to any one client experience but are common to many engagements.  

1. Provide for Sufficient, Dedicated User SMEs on the Project Team
Even the best consultants are not experts in your business processes. This is where your subject matter experts come in.  However, they will not be able to provide their best input if they can’t dedicate the necessary, undivided time and attention to the project.  Too often they are distracted by the call of their daily job requirements to focus on anything related to the new system.  To alleviate this problem, arrange for “backfill” by temporarily reassigning employees or hiring temporary staff to cover for the SMEs.

2. Plan and Execute Adequate Testing
I wish I could count the number of times I’ve looked at testing plans and observed deficiencies.  In today’s practice, it seems that the emphasis is on test scripts.  Users are asked to provide input on the creation of test scripts, which are then executed, often by a consultant, and the end users are asked to sign off on the results.  But, an informed end user needs to look at the testing process to ensure that the entire business cycle is adequately tested.  There may only be a handful of unique transactions that fall outside the norm of processing, but those need to be contemplated and tested, too.  In addition, do not forget about testing month-end, quarter-end and year-end processing activities and reporting requirements.  

3. Be Realistic When Reporting Project Status
We all know that no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.  But if there are numerous defects detected, that fact needs to be presented to project management as early as possible. There is nothing worse than hearing that project status is green all the way until the very end of the project. Perhaps if the yellow caution flag had been raised earlier, the situation could have been more effectively dealt with over time. Significant issues rarely present themselves at the last minute.

4. Be Ready to Push Back on the Go-Live Date if the System is Not Ready for Production
It’s your choice, but you will either pay now or pay later.  I’ve actually seen situations where the decision was made to go live with known critical issues only to deal with those problems in Phase 2.  But, there can be embarrassing consequences when system glitches adversely affect customers. Before things get to that point, consider whether delaying the go-live for a month or even a quarter might not provide adequate time to get things right.  It could mean the difference between a successful project and an impending disaster.

Executing a successful systems implementation project involves ensuring the participation of any relevant subject matter experts, performing adequate testing, communicating realistic project reports and possessing the willingness to extend the go-live date.

I know that New Year’s resolutions can be difficult to implement, but with precious time and budget on the line, I hope you can present these resolutions within your organization and find IT success in 2014.

Discover a CPA’s approach to BSI by downloading a preview of the Information Management and Technology Assurance Section’s white paper, “A CPA’s Approach to Business Solution Implementation.” IMTA Section members can download the complete white paper for free. For additional information, visit IMTA's Systems Implementation/Technology Integration webpage.

Doris Cantagallo, CPA/CITP, CGMA. Doris is an independent consultant who has 30 years of experience in the accounting field. In the last 10 years Doris’ primary focus has been on ERP implementations (SAP/Oracle/PeopleSoft/JD Edwards), financial reporting/business intelligence systems and data warehousing. Doris served on the AICPA's IMTA Executive Committee Meeting for three years. She currently serves on the AICPA's CITP Credential Committee and the IMTA Business Intelligence Task Force.

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