Today’s business world is fast-paced and ever changing, often leaving us under the gun to make changes and find new business solutions with little time to evaluate our options. If your management team has decided its time to invest in an IWMS tool, it is likely because they realize the need for new solutions to manage business processes. More than likely, though, your FM team isn’t afforded the luxury of time. Although deciding which vendor’s systems to use is a critical step, choosing the right vendor and solution is only part of the process - you are then faced with the technical aspects of implementation, which includes data migration, training, and testing.
If you’re feeling the pressure to implement a system asap, there are a few things you can do to expedite the process, ensuring the fastest and smoothest transition possible for your team. Knowledge and preparation equate to power, so let’s ramp up your abilities with some valuable IWMS information.
1) Choose an Experienced Software Vendor
Know who you’re working with. Make sure that your company is partnering with a vendor with a proven track record of implementing solutions in organizations similar both in size and industry to your own. The FM software company will be, in a sense, an extension of your team, so you want someone who understands the intricacies of your industry. The right vendor can make or break the success of your software implementation, both now and moving into the future. Ask for references and/or case studies and verify the facts whenever possible. Your long-term goal is to expand your business; and since you likely do not want to go through this same process in five years, partnering with a seasoned vendor only makes good fiscal sense.
2) Choose SaaS
Do research and understand your needs when determining what platform is right for you long-term. It is important to fully understand the type of software solution you’re investing in. Options vary depending upon the vendor, but the most common choices are Software as a Service (SaaS), hosted software and server based software. Hosted software is similar to SaaS, but it is stand-alone version of the software that is accessible via the web and hosted by a third party. Server based software refers to a tool that you purchase and then have installed and implemented on a premises. This typically results in higher out of pocket expense, as additional hardware, software, and licensing fees are often required. SaaS is a software solution in which your business management applications are hosted, managed, and stored in the provider’s database. It is also a single application configured to meet your specifications but that one application is in a continuous state of improvement. The customer gets the benefit of enhancements real-time instead of waiting on the new version for their stand-alone hosted configuration to be implemented. Access is granted via Internet connection, offering your workforce broader access to the tools they need.
Investing in a SaaS solution can speed up the FM software implementation process, as there is little to no additional equipment to purchase and you have the predictability of knowing what kind of configuration your system will run best on. SaaS also offers you the flexibility to expand your software tool, as your business needs change. So, you’re able to purchase only what you need today and build on the system on an as-needed basis. For more on the advantages and disadvantages to Software as a Service, check out our infographic The Pros & Cons of SaaS-Based Software.
3) Understand Your Data and Reporting Needs
Identify your migration needs. Before interviewing potential software companies, set up a meeting with all the members of your management team to discuss organizational goals and determine what you are looking to get out of analytics and reporting. This will be the foundation for your entire implementation process, as it will assist you in determining which vendor is most equipped to meet your needs and will also determine what data should be migrated to the new system. An experienced software company can assist you in identifying which data should be migrated and what can be abandoned, but arming them with as many details about your goals and vision for the future is critical to a smooth transition.
4) Don’t Try to Do Too Much
Prioritize and focus on the must-haves. While it is important to invest in a software solution that can grow with your company’s expanding business needs, succumbing to the temptation to purchase everything at once can prove to be a grave mistake. Purchasing all the bells and whistles is impractical and an inefficient way to spend both your time and money.
Since many software implementation projects are derailed when management is trying to do too much, create a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves based on your list of organizational goals. If time is a concern for your company, you will need to focus on the must-haves first. Once you have your list in order, your vendor can help you determine a realistic timetable and identify which modules can wait.
During this process, it is important to remember WHY your team has decided to take on this project. Processes and workflows should be examined for inefficiencies, making way for improvement. Your new system should have automating capabilities, forcing you to abandon antiquated methods and make way for new ways to ways of designing and processing your data. Create a list of “best practices” that can be implemented over time. Again, don’t try to do everything at once, or you will find yourself with a new software tool that users are too intimidated to use.
5) Start Early
Develop a succinct plan of action. You know what they say about the best-laid plans - they rarely go exactly as intended. When mapping out your implementation plan, it’s all in the details. And the shorter your timeframe goal is, the less room you’ll have for error.
Involve each department when mapping out a plan of action and keep in regular contact with your software vendor. Discuss your timeline and needs with the implementation specialist you’ve been assigned, as they will be able to guide you in setting realistic goals based on your current hardware/software, company size, and business resources. Manage expectations by setting a “go live” date and set weekly milestone goals to help you stay on track. Make sure each team member is clear on what is expected of him or her and schedule regular meetings so they can update you on their progress. This way, you’re apprised of any issues that could derail the plan or throw the project off budget.
6) Empower Your Workforce
Involve your workforce, train them early, and incentivize. One of the biggest causes of implementation failures is due to lack of buy-in and support from operational users. If you want your workforce to use your new system to its fullest potential, consult with them on how to make their daily processes more efficient and ask for their input throughout the process. Empower your employees by making them a part of the process - assign individuals to tasks that play on their strengths and allow them to help make decisions regarding changes in processes, software implementation, and deployment. Remember, these are the people that will be using the system day in and day out; they have the most to gain (or lose) from a successful project.
Another leading cause of implementation failure stems from lack of training. By involving individuals from the team, they will develop a firm understanding of the intricacies of the system, how it works, and the reasons why it is set up the way it is. In essence, they are receiving on-the-job training and will be better equipped to help the rest of the workforce as they learn the new system. Regardless of your implementation timeframe, training is an area you do not want to skimp on.
If your company has been tossing around the idea of investing in an IWMS solution, there is no time like the present. Systems are complex and can perform a multitude of difficult tasks, but the implementation process doesn’t have to be complex or difficult itself. Prepare ahead of time and make the transition a positive process. Then, watch your team take off with these new tools.