Two questions to improve software implementations

Large enterprise software implementations are frequently complex, expensive, and risky undertakings. If you are prospective enterprise software buyer, ask your software and consulting vendors the following two questions:1.

Large enterprise software implementations are frequently complex, expensive, and risky undertakings. If you are prospective enterprise software buyer, ask your software and consulting vendors the following two questions:

1. Has your company developed an implementation toolkit?

2. Do you offer packaged, or productized, implementation services?

These questions are intended to help determine whether your vendors have invested in tools and techniques designed to reduce implementation time and cost.

1. Has your company developed an implementation toolkit?

Software vendors should provide a carefully-defined roadmap to guide implementations through a standard process. While it can be profitable for a vendor to reinvent the wheel with each new engagement, it's what you want as a customer.

The roadmap should include substantive content, giving advice on best practices for executing each step. In addition, distinct roadmaps should be available for different implementation activities; for example, the upgrade process should be not be identical to the steps used during a new software installation.

The following screen capture is from SAP's implementation methodology and toolkit, called AcceleratedSAP (ASAP). The toolkit was started in the mid-nineties, and is a mature product, offering a rich set of tools, techniques, guidance, and advice for implementing SAP products.

Two questions to improve software implementations

Lotus Development Corp. created an implementation toolkit to help Lotus business partners sell and deploy mail messaging migrations. Note the content is completely self-contained inside the toolkit.

Two questions to improve software implementations

Cognos has created a comprehensive implementation toolkit, covering all steps and procedures necessary to deploy their product.

Two questions to improve software implementations

2. Do you offer packaged, or productized, implementation services?

Many project failures can be attributed to lack of financial alignment between buyers and sellers of enterprise implementation services. Buyers want implementation performed quickly and inexpensively, while implementers are usually compensated on an hourly basis, giving them financial incentive to increase costs.

Packaged implementation services, sometimes defined as “standard, reusable, consulting service offerings, including definition of tasks, deliverables and standard estimates or fixed costs,” offer a solution. The British Computer Society considers packaged, productized services an important means for avoiding "lengthy consulting agreements where ROI is difficult to calculate and development is hard to manage."

Although packaged services are not right for every situation, be sure to ask prospective implementation partners whether they offer fixed-price bundles to cover at least some components of the project.

Examples of vendors offering packaged services include Cognos and Oracle. From the Cognos website, here is a packaged installation service:

Two questions to improve software implementations

Again, from Cognos (emphasis added):

“Service packages are created from the accumulated knowledge within our organization in working with our many customers around the world. They show we have done it before – many times, and they are the summation of experience by our Consultants, our Support specialists, our Trainers, our Development teams, and hundreds of customers all over the world. From these experiences we apply Best Practice into the package service structure and inbuilt deliverables, with these deliverables being achieved within a defined timeframe. You know what you will get and when, during a full cycle of deployment.

And, from Oracle (emphasis added):

“Oracle Consulting offers additional services to meet your business requirements, time frames, and ROI needs. These repeatable, cost-controlled, out-of-the-box solutions can simplify your implementation.

By raising these two questions with software and consulting vendors, you communicate that implementation time, cost, and risk are serious issues for your organization. Any vendor that combines a well-designed, proven implementation toolkit with packaged consulting services deserves your consideration and evaluation.

[Disclosure: SAP and Lotus were clients for developing the toolkits shown above.]

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