System implementations are complex projects demanding much of an organization’s time, energy, and resources. Companies desire projects of such magnitude to be done on time, one time, within budget, and done well. As a consulting firm, Trenegy has witnessed companies go through system implementations with great success and great failure.

How does a company avoid becoming another failed system implementation statistic? Seven keys to implementation success are as follows:

1. Build organizational support

Organizations are often resistant to change, or at least hesitant. Create a groundswell of support for the new system by explaining to employees at each level why the change is beneficial. Executives can benefit from the support ERP or accounting systems provide to acquisition growth. Revenue accountants will have the opportunity to clean up data and streamline prior period adjustments. Operations will have access to timely production data and accurate lease operating statements.

Creating a well-rounded implementation team is vital for organizational support and project success. The project team must have the right skill set and decision-making authority. Large-scale system implementations require a team of devoted project members who are committed to making the implementation a success. These members should have the right skills, a strong work ethic, and the ability to see the project to completion.

Subject matter experts (SMEs), such as the assistant controller or land manager, are also critical to change management and project success. SMEs are critical decision makers. They know where the business is going and can provide insight to ensure the system will meet future needs. Their knowledge of potential acquisitions and projected growth is invaluable. It’s important for them to be aware as critical decisions are made throughout the project.

2. Understand business process requirements

“Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” —Bill Gates

In order to implement an effective system, an organization’s business process requirements must be clearly laid out, step by step. Initially, this requires asking the right questions, such as, “What does the current process look like? How could it be improved for the future? What information is needed to quickly and successfully create an improved process?” Specifics are important so processes can be revisited as little as possible. General ideas are subject to uncertainty, which leaves system implementers guessing.

This is where process flows come in handy and make understanding specific requirements easier. It is crucial to capture which steps occur before and after the process as well, because that heavily influences the process itself. Seek to understand what the process currently looks like and what changes need to be made to make it more efficient in the future.

3. Identify critical reporting requirements

The importance of defining critical reporting requirements at the outset of an implementation cannot be overstated. Reporting is derived from the Flexible Business Structure—the backbone of data organization.

To create a system that pulls clean reports, an organization must predetermine the data hierarchy. Will budgeting occur by region or business unit? It’s important to determine a standard method of booking certain costs. For example, management may decide that lease operating expenses (LOE) should be booked at the lowest level of detail (i.e. completion instead of well) to provide a greater level of accuracy in reporting.

Maintaining the integrity of the data model, reporting hierarchies, and KPIs ensures that management reports will be consistent over time, giving decision makers valuable insight into performance trends.

At this stage, it’s important to consider the trajectory of the business. If growth through acquisition is planned, understand that budgets and reporting views will need to accommodate additional divisions and support more transactional data.

4. Cleanse data prior to conversion

The purpose of an ERP or accounting system is to provide accurate, timely, and insightful reporting that helps managers and executives make better decisions. Clean data is needed to make the most efficient use of a system. Without clean master data, executives lack reporting confidence and are tossed back to square one: making business decisions with inaccurate information.

When critical master data comes from systems that are not integrated, major errors are prone to occur during data cleansing and validation. Merging master data requires experienced oversight and coordination, especially when different business functions own the systems being merged.

5. Practice, practice, practice

It ‘s important to create training tools specifically designed for each organization. Standard technical documentation alone is not enough. It often leaves employees confused and frustrated. Tailoring training materials to the organization prepares employees to confidently acclimate to the new system.

Developing a training strategy that will facilitate learning and produce a change can be challenging. Training must be completed in a way that resonates with the audience and speaks to their learning style. What works for one person might not work for everyone.

Before the system is fully implemented, users should receive a broad overview of the system to become familiar with the interface. Then, prior to go-live, training sessions should be held specific to each function. Simulation training is more in-depth, as a system expert sits side-by-side with users to walk through daily processes.

However, it’s unlikely that every possible scenario will be covered in training. Training should focus on critical elements and common scenarios. Training provides employees with the initial tools they will need to understand the system.

6. Communicate major decisions

Too often, companies get into trouble by failing to document decisions, only to unnecessarily revisit them later. This ultimately results in rework and delays. Often, those affected by these decisions were not involved in the decision-making process.

Decisions should be clearly communicated and documented in a log maintained by the project manager. SharePoint is helpful for clearly recording when, why, and by whom decisions are made, as well as resulting task lists. These decisions should only be revisited when business changes require the project team to change course.

7. Motivate your team

System implementation is hard work! It can be easy to grow tired and impatient, so keeping team members motivated is vital. Sitting together in an open room can keep teams energized and in constant communication. Urgent issues can be discussed immediately and when a problem arises, the entire team is aware of it. High cubicle walls and individual offices create physical and communication barriers.

There is value in ensuring project team members are able to get to know each other and relate on a personal level beyond a work environment. Knowing someone’s name and job description is one thing, but understanding their personality, learning style, and how they best relate to others lays the foundation for a more cohesive team. The most successful projects are completed by cohesive teams who communicate well, work hard to complete the tasks at hand, and share a common goal of seeing the project succeed.

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