Digital Transformation • February 12, 2016

3 Reasons You Might Fail During a Software Implementation and How to Avoid Them

Devon Morris Devon Morris

380-workers-on-a-giant-computer-or (1)Recently, I was involved in a sales call with a major medical device manufacturer. While exchanging goodbyes, the EVP said, “This implementation has to work.” For prospective buyers those words seem to be all too common.

Without the EVPs and other key managers’ buy-in and support, the chances of any major software package being installed successfully are statistically low. Software implementations generally do not deliver the intended results or ROI without upper management’s full involvement and support.

Failed software implementations are typically a taboo topic in the manufacturing world and are often swept under the rug. Even though critical Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Quality Management System (QMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software implementations provide major returns on investment, they have been known to fail for three major reasons:

  1. Upper management does not fully buy-in to their new software system and provides lackluster support during implementation. To realize the full potential of any new system, everyone must engage in the project. The executives should lead the charge by making the software implementation a major company directive. This  will align business processes, increase employee ownership and buy-in, and ultimately  ensure a successful implementation with a rapid ROI.
  2. The amount of resources required for implementation and training are under-estimated. Many industry consultants will argue that implementation and training are the two most critical success factors of any major software implementation. Unfortunately, many organizations cut back training and support  to fit into a tight budget. Those organizations typically believe their people are smart enough to figure out the software themselves. And generally that is not the case.  Software implementations can alter business practices and at times also the company culture; organizations would need to work as a whole to overcome such change.Leveraging your software developer will be invaluable when it comes to your installation process. They considerably see more implementations and have more experience than  others. They can  use their knowledge of “best practices” to avoid many of the known pitfalls that cause an implementation to fail. Cutting out critical events such as executive meetings, process changes, documentation, training, and pilot testing, in order to reduce the upfront cost of the project, only jeopardizes the likelihood of a successful project.
  3. The software turns out to be not a good fit or doesn’t function as promised. This typically occurs when an organization buys a generic “tool kit” package versus a purpose built commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) package. Not having the proper features and functions to handle specific manufacturing needs and requirements will cause numerous delays and costly customizations. Forget the sales pitches and all the pretty slides; dig deep into the offered software and make sure it can do what you need it to do.

When evaluating software, it’s important to take the time to list out all of the functionality your organization requires and have your software vendors show you how they  will handle each requirement line-by-line in a detailed non-customized demonstration. In addition, find out if they’ll  let your internal experts get their hands on the system for a short period of time before purchasing the software. This will reduce your potential risk of selecting the wrong system.

Since support from the executive team and adequate training is often the difference between success and failure, it’s imperative to understand if there is any concern regarding potential cost overruns. Request a fixed fee implementation package from your software provider or integrator, the more pushback you receive on a fixed fee the more likely there will be cost overruns.

In the end, instituting a company-wide focus ensures that the proper time and resources will be dedicated to the implementation. This will provide the foundation for high employee adoption rates, a successful implementation, and a fast ROI.

Read about BAE Systems’ experience with implementing Solumina.