Enterprise-wide software projects require help from everyone

Launching enterprise-wide software is challenging for organizations of any type or size. These projects are complex and time-consuming, requiring a great deal of planning, resources and communication to execute. Fortunately, there are tried-and-true steps that can set the foundation for a successful outcome.

Smart Business spoke with Keith Monahan, Director of Quality Assurance Services at Rivers Agile, about giving enterprise-wide software rollouts the best chance of success.

How should software rollouts begin?

Whether the project involves building software or deploying commercial off-the-shelf software, the first step is to decide from a high level what needs to be accomplished — the goal or the vision. That springs from a high-level vision statement from the Executive Sponsor, which could be as simple as, ‘We need a solution that does X.’ That statement then filters down to the CTO, who interprets that vision statement into the business value the organization is trying to deliver, whether internal, external or both. They use their technology and business knowledge to invoke the right internal department heads to execute this vision.

As this message moves downstream, it’s picked up by a business analyst, who transforms the vision into a set of requirements that typically take two forms: functional requirements, which describe what the software is supposed to do, and nonfunctional requirements, which describe how the system is supposed to be.

How does that vision get translated into function?

To ensure the final product matches the initial vision, organizations should work closely with their Software Development and Quality Assurance (QA) teams. QA, when involved early, can analyze the given project requirements to determine that they are finite, testable and measurable. Bringing QA in early to develop a testing strategy and perform requirements analysis is essential to ensure that what’s being requested can be delivered, and that goes a long way toward the project’s success.

This, in short, is the process of verification and validation, both of which are functions of QA. Verification confirms that testing is being done on the many pieces and parts of a project according to the specifications. Validation ensures that functions are being built that support the business and provide value. Value stream mapping, a part of validation, helps ensure if a feature is added that it leads to a valuable outcome — say, revenue generation or time savings.

By having QA involved early and doing both verification and validation, organizations should expect to get a product that does what was described at a high level, and also functions well for those who use it every day. The key is that the development or implementation teams generate a service that shows real business value.

How can organizations ensure buy-in and adoption?

Once the software is finished and ready for rollout, organizations need to deploy an implementation plan, which will help ensure the transition from the old to new system is as smooth as possible. Among the key steps in implementation are aligning the team, change management and training. Training can be done internally by technical users, or by external teams familiar with the software. The goal is to ensure end users can understand and quickly get comfortable with the new software. Equally as important is to get teams aligned behind a software rollout early. This can be done by designating a representative in every functional area — accounting or procurement, for instance, depending on the nature of the project — to answer usage questions. This should be someone who understands the software as well as the day-to-day demands placed on it — the practical processes and functions of the department.

Change management is another key to implementation. This organization-wide strategy to facilitate the transition is driven by frequent communication. Determine who will lead it and how communication will work so that each step in the transition — for instance, when existing system will be down as they’re upgraded, when training will be delivered — is clear.

Enterprise-wide software rollouts are complicated, and not everything will go smoothly. But, with a well-considered plan and the involvement of QA throughout the process, the chances of success are greater.

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