And the words and actions used by upper management go a long way to setting the overall tone of the implementation. “There has to be a management commitment that ‘yes, we are going to make this happen; everybody is going to get on-board with this project.’ If you don’t have that kind of a commitment plan, an install can drag on forever,” remarks Denise Lunden, executive vice president of Software Marketing Associates.

But most important is the understanding by upper management that they need to be willing to make the installation their main focus, says Grieco, of Printers Software.

“People think that they can leave it to the supplier to install the system, and they can go about their regular business.”

Once you’ve assembled your team, the next challenge is to take a good, hard look at what you want out of the new system. “Users have to be able to articulate to the supplier what specifically they need the system to do,” adds Grieco.

Initial planning meetings should focus on what each department needs the system to do, as well as a wish list of desired features, notes Ken Meinhart, president of Tailored Solutions. “It’s hard to find a system that will be the ultimate for everyone. So everyone needs to prioritize what features are important,” he claims.

To ensure that everyone is on the same page, planning meetings cannot occur in a vacuum, according to PRIMAC’s Knowlton. Departments need to interact with each other when developing needs and wants in a system. Departments should not be left to make their lists without the interaction of others. This process helps lay the initial groundwork for developing the all important “our system” approach to the installation.

This planning phase is also a good time for executive management to focus on the bigger picture, suggests Knowlton. “One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is that they buy a software package that meets their needs today without looking at future needs. But, in five years, they’ve changed their business and they have to start over again.”

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