Challenges in the Implementation of New It Systems
Davenport (1998) agrees that system implementation do come with enormous technical challenges but the complexities and technical challenges are not the main reason for the difficulties in implementing the systems but rather attributes it to business problems. Most information technology systems by their nature impose their own logic on a company’s strategy, organizations and culture. Some company’s may have their own customized processes that provide them with a competitive advantage and these processes may not necessarily be support by the new systems.
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As such the conflict between the logic of the systems and the logic of the business or the company can lead to an implementation failure and cause a great deal of disruption and possible weaken the company’s source of competitive advantage. To mitigate such a situation, companies must have a clear understanding of the business implications of installing any new system and its impact on their business and legal requirements before proceeding with its implementation.
There may be the need for some customization to for the system to properly support the business. Such a scenario was encountered during an SAP implementation I was part of for my previous employer in Cote D’Ivoire. During the assessment stage we realized that Cote D’Ivoire had a complicated system for calculating the tax component on raw material imported into the country. This calculation process was not part of the SAP application since it was unique only to that country.
We eventually had to make some change request and development in the SAP system to be able to accommodate this taxation calculation and developed another software that interfaced with SAP. Failure to identify and address this could have led to a significant implementation failure. This led to losing some amount of integration benefits of SAP but overall it also allowed us to meet the regulatory requirements of the country. Another potential area that can impact the implementation of new IT systems is failure to consider the employees who are the actual use of the ystem in the implementation process and ensure they are well trained and prepared to work with the new systems. Burke et al (2001) states that the success or failure of any implementation rests on the ability of those in charge to manage the human factors of the project. From personal experience implementing SAP, one key thing I noticed was that most of the staff in the early months after go-live were using the new system in ways similar to the old legacy systems they were used to.
This divide between how the system was being used and how it actually should have been used did not ensure that the objective of the implement new systems was achieved. This also led to many complaints from staff and their managers about how the new system was making their jobs difficult. In as much as a lot of awareness was created about the new systems and most members of staff knew about it, there was a gap in training. Super users and trainers for some functional units were not able to effectively train all the end users on how to use the new systems.
There was also a gap in the soft skills of some users especially the factory hands and warehouse staff who were not completely comfortable with barcode scanners and computers. The following recommendation made in the learning log by the implementation team to mitigate any such reoccurrence:- •During the early project tasks, there should be a mapping out of the roles and job function and the necessary training needs identified. Analyze the impact of the system on each job and ensure training is customized to enable employees perform their task •Ensure there is a training budget as part of the implementation process •Training should start as early as possible and day in life cycles should be used as part of the training scripts •Identify employees who need training on soft skills (use of computers, barcode scanners, etc. as part of the early project tasks and ensure they are trained prior to implement the new system In as much as implementation of IT systems can be complex, there is the need to ensure all the aspects of human intervention are properly address prior to implementation. Chopra and Meindl (2007) also suggest three ideas to keep in mind when implementing IT systems. First is to install new IT systems in incremental stages rather than a full scale implementation.
The idea is to limit the damage should problems arise with the installation and also to make it easier to identify problem areas during installation. The second is to run both the new and old systems parallel for a period such that when a problem is encountered with the new systems in the early stages, the old system can be relied upon for business continuity while the issues are addressed. The final idea is to implement only the level of complexity that a company needs. New systems always seem to have a lot of functionality that most managers will like to have.
The focus should always be on exactly what is needed and provides the benefit the company needs. References Burke, R. , Kenney, B. , Kott, K. and Pflueger, K. (2001) Success or Failure: Human Factors in Implementing New Systems. Chopra, S. & Meindl, P. (2007) Supply chain management: Strategy, planning, and operation 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Davenport, T. H. (1998) “Putting the enterprise into the enterprise system. ” Harvard Business Review, July-August 1