1. Executive Project Support. Leadership must be the driver but more importantly the motivator in getting the organization to accept change. When there is consistent leadership at every level, the entire workforce is being driven toward the common goal of accepting and adapting to the new system. Effective leadership can sharply reduce behavioral resistance to change, especially when dealing with new technologies. Leadership must review project status on a regular basis, moving quickly to remove any barriers. Leadership must work with your vendor to ensure you know what to be looking for as the solution is rolled out. Often times there is no one watching the rollout. Six months into it you start receiving negative feedback from staff on the return on your investment. Designate an implementation team and set clear expectations. Organizations that suffer from the lack of this often implement 30% of a solution while the other 70% is never realized.
2. Designate a Project Champion. The project champion must have authority to work across departments within your organization. This champion must be a master at removing the politics that exist between departments to reduce the obstacles those politics create and increase the importance of the plan to all staff.
3. Minimize Customization. Keep customization to a minimum as this will greatly reduce the cost for implementation and also during the life cycle of your project. Your software selection process will reveal the fact that there is probably not a system that does exactly what you are looking for. At this point, you have to make a critical decision. Either select the system that meets most of your needs and uses it the way it was designed or build your own. If you decide to select a system that meets most of your needs do not expect the vendor to make major development changes without being willing to pay for them and realizing the time to implement will increase.
4. Write a Dynamic but Rigid Implementation Plan. The implementation plan must be a living plan. As the implementation plan is rolled out the plan must be dynamic enough to change to the conditions you are encountering but rigid enough to reach your goals and objectives in the time you want to reach them.
5. Requirements Discovery (timely and effective communications). Implementation teams usually are composed of vendors, consultants, and internal resources. Your software vendor may not be too familiar with running a social service agency while your agency does not know how to build a software solution. Concise and prompt communications must prevail. A missed requirement early in the implementation stage can cause substantial time delays later.
6. Do NOT Rush Configuration. Do not rush this stage of the implementation. Getting the configuration correct is imperative to a smooth implementation but more importantly correct implementation. Another critical area for any implementation is ensuring that employees are assigned the appropriate roles and access.
7. Pilot, Pilot, Pilot. The configuration phase of the implementation plan is a great time to pilot the solution. The more you pilot those configurations the more hidden requirements are uncovered. Do not rush this phase as the return on your investment is greatly increased when this is done thoroughly.
8. Develop a Partnership. In today’s world of regulations and requirements, your solution should be considered as a critical component of your agency’s processes, resources, and success. Tracking data for simplified outcomes, increased accuracy in financial matters and regulatory compliance greatly increases your agency’s image to your payers. A well-implemented solution also will make your agency appear as an evidenced-based provider. Communicate this message to all staff and instill in them that it is an integral part of them.