How do we measure

Louisa Nana – General Manager: Risk and Resilience Advisory, Protean Business Solutions

At some stage in their lives, most employees will be part of an IT system implementation team and will need to either provide input on the project or perform certain tasks to assist the project team with implementation. They will realise that these projects are complex as there are many moving parts, including people’s individual requirements and personalities. People invariably want the system to do what they need it to do, regardless of the impact on others.

Some companies have consultants assisting with change management, who hype a new system by saying it will solve all the organisation’s problems, exciting the staff – or not, because they have heard this type of story before and know the picture will not be all that rosy. This could make employees sceptical and unwilling to get involved in the project.

Whatever the case, employees have to ensure that implementation goes ahead as planned – they must work as a team, implement on time and within the allocated budget, and provide progress reports to the steering committee and management.

How do we measure whether an IT system has been implemented successfully or not?

The obvious answer is whether the project is implemented on time and within the allocated budget. It is a fact that few IT implementation projects are implemented on time and within budget. If this is the norm, what other metrics could be used to determine whether the project was successful or not?  

I think that the ultimate measure of success is when the system truly addresses the needs of the end users and makes their daily tasks easier. If they can prove that the system has reduced the number of hours they spend on an activity and that management is making more informed decisions, this is a sign that the goals have been achieved.

So often, senior managers purchase and implement IT systems so they can impress the board with a fancy dashboard, without considering the possibility that data-capturing may proceed slowly and employees may not have time to do the jobs for which they were hired, from inspecting a site and identifying safety hazards to calling clients and making sales. We really do need to consider whether IT systems are implemented to address issues or create more work for our staff. To determine the value, we can get from a system, we need to be able to measure efficiencies.

As our reliance on technology increases, digital transformation is becoming more important – in fact, it is imperative for the survival of organisations. Organisations are forced to monitor technology-related trends to adjust their marketing strategies and remain relevant. As organisations refine their processes and IT systems, they should identify systems that need to be replaced, or new systems that need to be implemented to increase efficiency, reduce costs, remain relevant, or enable them to operate. IT system implementation can be very complicated and, in some instances, fail due to several reasons.

How can we do things differently to ensure the success of IT system implementations?

The success of implementation relies on careful planning and having the right project team, with an emphasis on strong collaboration and effective communication. This sounds simple and logical, but there are numerous factors that can influence the success of implementation.

  1. Users’ perceptions

It is essential for users to be involved from the outset. They need to understand how this system will help them to carry out their daily tasks – and yes, this may take longer in the beginning as they get used to the system. They need to see that the system will help them to become more efficient by enabling them to focus on other tasks, which may add more value to the organisation. They need to believe in the system – if they get the impression it is just there to provide management with ‘sexy’ dashboards and reports, and is being forced on them, they may become disruptive which may impact the success of the project.

2. Culture

Project teams need to be carefully selected, especially executive sponsors, who are the champions of the project. They need to demonstrate their support for the project and should communicate this to the users and other stakeholders, emphasising collaboration and confirming each staff member’s vital contribution. This will assist in building support and a unified culture within the project team. The project team members are ambassadors of the project and need to focus on positive messaging about the project to gain the buy in of users, management and the rest of the organisation.

3. Competence and experience

Understanding the level of competency and experience of users are very important to the success of the IT system implementation. For some users it may be challenging to envisage how the system will assist them or to visualise their lives without the old system or manual process that they are used too.

You will need to engage with the users to determine their level of understanding of the current process and gauge what impact the system will have on them. Focus more attention on the users who find it difficult to adapt – this may require additional training on the system as well as the process.

4. Multi-tasking

Users have many balls to juggle, trying to balance their daily activities including the tasks assigned to them by the project team may be challenging.  They may have the best intentions however things may happen which prevents them from meeting their deadlines, as the business still needs to operate.

The project team needs to ensure that a realistic project plan has been communicated and everyone has pledged their commitment to the project. Users should be held accountable for missing deadlines and team members’ efforts should be recognised. 

5. System Requirements

You need to know exactly what you would like to achieve with the implementation of new software. The requirements need to be clearly defined by obtaining input from users. You should ensure that the software can meet the organisation’s requirements. If it cannot, users will request the implementation of a different system to meet individual needs, or request enhancements, defeating the original purpose of the system. This will result in scope creep and an increase in cost. If you cannot find a system that meets your requirements, it is best to look for one that is highly configurable and customisable, with strong Application Programming Interface (API) capabilities.

You can purchase the best system in the world, with the greatest features and capabilities that can be implemented by the most experienced consultants, but there will always be a chance that implementation will fail due to human behaviour. It is imperative to understand and manage human behaviour to increase the chances of successful system implementation.