Times have changed, but the need for change hasn’t. More than fifteen years ago, I authored an article that highlighted the differences between a traditional “reengineering” effort (the popular term at the time) and one which is driven by a system conversion. The article also described a case study involving a mandatory Y2K conversion that was the catalyst for a successful business transformation initiative.

A recent client engagement reinforced that the concepts described in that article remain relevant today, perhaps even more so because many organizations are planning major efforts to upgrade systems and technology. In that context, I offer a fresh look at those concepts and how you might apply them in your next system replacement effort, including requirements development, system selection, and implementation.

Often, companies with cultures that dampen creativity and risk taking or that suffer from analysis paralysis struggle when they attempt to implement major change. Typically, it takes a burning platform or some other forcing mechanism to spur them to embrace fundamental change. A system conversion can provide just such a stimulus if the following are considered as part of the conversion process: 

  • Business impact is directly related to the robustness of the selected software and supporting platform. The selection process should objectively examine systems that enable more efficient and effective business practices—for example, fewer process steps, shorter cycle times, less paper, and automated decision making.
  • Maximizing positive results demands a comprehensive knowledge of system functionality, user-driven configuration options (vs. customization), and core system interfaces.
  • A rigorous software modification assessment and approval process is critical in preventing the organization from watering down the process improvements that are endemic to the new system. Without this, the organization runs the risk of modifying the software to replicate current business practices, which are often outdated and inefficient. In other words, too much customization of new software will likely negate many of the new system’s benefits. Any proposed modifications must therefore be in sync with process redesign objectives, including new customer experience requirements, organizational structure, job design, management practices, and measure and reward systems.
  • It is essential to understand the distinctions between the process and procedure steps that are system-driven versus those that can be designed independently of the system.
  • The goal-state business model should be designed by applying business process redesign concepts, with a full leveraging of system functionality in mind.
  • The redesign of the new operation should be integrated with system implementation time frames to ensure alignment and logical sequencing of events and time frames.
  • The laboratory environment established for testing the new system should also be used to test new and improved processes, workflows, job designs, etc. Testing success metrics and goals should also be established.
  • As with any redesign effort, business readiness is paramount. Every member of the organization must view the change not as a system conversion, but as a new way of doing business. Preparation in the form of change management, open communication, and risk/obstacle management must begin well in advance of the actual conversion.
  • Human resource-related issues are among the trickiest and most influential of any change initiative. When combined with process redesign, a new system can make current knowledge and skill sets obsolete, especially when a conversion transfers workers from multiple standalone systems and departments into an integrated processing environment. Skills assessments, training plans, and revisions to hiring practices must be accomplished well ahead of implementation to mitigate risk and ensure the staff is prepared.

Nolan uses our proprietary methodology and toolset, called Package Enabled Operations Design, to help clients with their combined system replacement and operations redesign. This approach incorporates the concepts I described above to achieve the powerful combination of business and technology benefits when investing in a new system. As you embark on your next system renewal or replacement, consider the concepts I’ve shared here to maximize the business results of your technology investment.

I welcome your feedback and would appreciate hearing about your own experiences with system replacements and outcomes. Please drop me a line at mike_meyer@renolan.com.


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