When I first joined the consulting ranks in the early 1990s, my customers expected their technology implementations to take a year or more. And that was acceptable. After all, how could people possibly learn that stuff any faster? Then came the sudden realization that a century was coming to an end and current software programs were using two-digit years instead of four.
As Y2K approached, the software industry boomed--businesses needed to upgrade their software or risk implosion. As consultants, we were required to come up with a way to compress an 18-month project plan into however much time was left to finish the job.
Fast forward 16 years, and customers expect as much of a turn-key implementation as before, yet still require the functionality their organizations “can’t live” without. Customers now expect a very intuitive system that requires little or no end-user training. The cloud has become the answer to everything. “Cheaper, faster, better” is the mantra I often hear.
Successful Cloud Implementation Today
What many of today’s customers and sales reps fail to recognize is that cloud implementation only eliminates the hardware- and software-install. There are still many implementation aspects that can’t be rushed, such as business process definition, configuration and training. A cloud implementation requires the consultant to set expectations early and often. At initial introductions, explain to your team that you realize they are under pressure to be successful and the best way to accomplish that is to set a realistic pace.
Another thing: You can’t start an implementation without a final, unchanging chart of accounts. Therefore you need an accountant on your team. By nature, accountants are more methodical than the rest of us, which means they move at a potentially slower pace. I encourage you to review the chart of accounts before an implementation officially starts. It will surely keep you ahead of the game.
Your Implementation Arsenal
Whether your implementation is on-premises or in the cloud, there are a number of tasks that can’t be abbreviated or eliminated. If you plan ahead and come prepared, you can make the most of the time available. From my experience, here’s a quick list of what you need in your implementation “arsenal”:
- Information gathering – Come with a list of questions that will get you the information you need to proceed with the implementation. Even better, ask your project manager if you can send the list to the client ahead of time so they can also prepare.
- Reporting & analytics – Many cloud applications are designed with the user experience in mind. This may mean that end users are creating their own reports and using analytic dashboards for the first time. This may take some getting used to.
- Documentation – Every implementation should be fully documented. Not only does the client need accurate documentation as a reference tool, but your company will also need it for a variety of reasons.
- Change management – Change can be frightening and complicated. Neither you nor your client is able to anticipate every aspect of the implementation. A strong change management plan is everyone’s responsibility.
- Security – An implementation is always a good reason to review the client’s security protocols. I am always amazed at how many businesses don’t implement simple security steps, such as segregation of duty.
- Post-go-live activities – Don’t forget to schedule consulting time for the few weeks following the go-live and other milestones, such as closing the books for the first time post-go-live.
The cloud is a new concept for consultants and customers alike. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the experience. It’s easy to blame the software when you don’t get expected results, but what if the client later determines that the lack of results was due to your lack of experience? You have now lost all credibility--and that is a difficult commodity to regain.
Avoid pitfalls by taking measures ahead of time to prepare for the implementation. Learn all you can about the cloud applications for which you are responsible. Create a plan for yourself and your team that will keep you on track. Most importantly, be honest with your team about your experience. Chances are, the notion of cloud is relatively new to all of us.
All the best,
Kim Miller is a Director at Oracle within the Global ERP, EPM & SCM Sales & Partner Enablement team and is the author of The Oracle Way to Consulting, What it Takes to Become a World Class Advisor
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