Invariably, once a new system is in place, the old system is remembered fondly as the best system users ever had. It was simple to use, it was fast, information was right at users’ fingertips. It was easy to get the job done and serve the customer. They’d sacrifice a limb to get it back (one of my clients actually offered a left foot to get his old core system back).
The new system, despite all the promises made during the selection and sales cycle, just doesn’t seem to measure up. Its complex, it takes more keystrokes/clicks/screens to get anything done, there are too many codes to remember. It doesn’t “talk” to the other systems, stuff has to be reentered into multiple screens, some of the fields and menu options aren’t even used. “This is not what we chose!” users cry in frustration. Or is it?
The users feel they’ve been sold a bill of goods – and they have! They sat through the demos and saw this awesome new system that solves all of the world’s problems. But that’s not the system they got. Instead, they now have something that makes their lives more difficult and their work harder. And they see no relief in sight. “Why have we done this to ourselves?” they lament.
You see, most new systems are replacing something that nobody liked. The focus during implementation is to get the new system in and the old system out. Everything the old system did needs to be replaced by the new system – sometimes literally. The new system is actually “dumbed down” to do something it was never designed to do: work like the old system. Users wonder where the improvements are, the enhancements, the things that make life easy. “We’ll get to them in Phase 2,” they’re told.
Priorities change. Users need time to adjust to the new system. The call center and branches are slammed with calls since conversion. It is going to take some settling in. Phase 2 just never seems to happen. Years may even go by and still no Phase 2. In time, users become complacent with the new system and so adept and finding workarounds that the benefits of Phase 2 actually seem less critical. But the nagging user satisfaction question never really goes away. They still fondly remember the old system.
So how do we make sure Phase 2 does happen? Here are some strategies to keep users happy and systems productive.
Budget and approve the whole project up front. Most major system conversions are justified on the Phase 2 benefits but only funded through Phase 1. Teams get stuck when Phase 1 uses up most of the money and the Phase 2 benefits can’t get funded. The budget should include all expenses for Phases 1, 2 and beyond in one project approval versus an incremental approval. If approval is broken down by phase, make sure the benefits are also broken down by phase. Don’t put the project or team in the no-win situation of running out of money before the work is complete.
Keep up the momentum. It has probably been a long journey to define the needs, review the options and select the new system. A lot of work has already been done and the anticipation of finally implementing is high. Sure, we need to get the new system in, but don’t let the implementation of the new system stop after conversion weekend. Keep pushing to get Phase 2 improvements implemented while users are learning and settling in on the Phase 1 features.
Keep the vendor on the hook. Vendors are often critical team members, but their involvement is short term and their goal is simple: earn their fees and move on. That said, vendors do have the expertise, they’ve done the conversion before, they provide the training and the knowledge transfer, they sold the benefits and know-how to implement them. Keeping the vendor involved is essential. Structure the implementation plan and contract to keep the vendor’s team on the job at least well into Phase 2. The vendor won’t like this, but nothing motivates a vendor more than being able to collect the entire conversion fee. If an incentive is needed to keep the vendor motivated, tie this incentive to the completion of Phase 2 and not just the implementation of the system.
Beware of Project Team Fatigue. A typical conversion can take up to a year – and sometimes more. That’s a long time to keep a team motivated. Extending the project with Phase 2 could mean a VERY long project in which it is even more difficult to keep everyone motivated. Team members will get fatigued. The project scope and value could get blurry. Shortcuts will seem like good ideas just to get things done. Pay special attention to these. Build events into the project plan to celebrate milestones, reinvigorate the team and remind everyone of the goal – no matter how far out it may be.
Keep the Team Focused. Conversion project teams usually have employees from each department that understand how the processes work, how the systems should work and how to get the most from the new system. These are the subject matter experts. SMEs typically get yanked out of their “real” jobs and assigned to the project with the promise that as soon as the project is complete they’ll be back to their day jobs. This leads to two questions:
The answer is usually “no” to both questions, so the conversion project should be staffed in such a way that it allows SMEs to stay involved with day-to-day activities. They will provide better representation to a long-term project if they are current with how the jobs are progressing. Also, it is important to set the expectation that SMEs will stay on the project through Phase 2.
Don’t Let the Project Take on a Life of its Own. Long conversion projects often encounter some scope creep. They pick up new requirements, and original requirements may be reprioritized, changed, deemphasized, dropped or just lost in the shuffle. Be careful that the project doesn’t pick up so many changes that the original goal is lost, the original value is unachievable or so many new things get added that the project never ends. Sometimes midcourse corrections are necessary, but these need to be reviewed and approved at the right level instead of just being added to the project informally.
Changing or adding a new system is a major undertaking. It affects a lot of people and should bring a lot of benefit. It is essential that planning and commitment cover the full scope of the effort and not just the first major milestone. Following through on that elusive Phase 2 will ensure that users are satisfied, the selected system is fully utilized and the team that selected it will have no regrets in the years to come.
Maybe the promises of a Phase 2 implementation got sidetracked somewhere. Maybe your utilization just needs a jump start.
Whatever the situation, a System Utilization Assessment from Cornerstone Advisors can help you identify whether
Contact Cornerstone Advisors today and we’ll talk about making Phase 2 a reality for your technology future.