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Business in Brief Implementing Successful Solutions

Part 1 – Preparing the Ground To make any project a success it is important to think about it correctly from the start. Projects are most successful when companies have fully considered what they want to achieve. Just ‘getting in a system’ is often quick to do and may give the appearance of progress but it will rarely deliver all the business improvements that were sought, or those that were potentially available. This stage involves a thorough examination of the business processes that are involved, the possibilities for implementation and the benefits that are absolutely necessary. Here are a few things that need thinking about when considering a new project:

Business benefit is key It sounds obvious but if there are no clear business objectives for a project, then it may fail to get off the ground. Ideally there will be a demonstrable link between the project goals and a business plan. A clear link to a business plan will also help to explain the value to colleagues. Writing clear and concise business objectives should take place before anything else.

Future proof as you go There are many easy option solutions that will make existing processes more efficient – but will they take the business to where it wants to be in 2 or 3 years time? If continuous improvements in efficiency, competitiveness and customer focus are paramount – then the solution needs to look ahead to the future, dramatically improve business processes today and be flexible enough to cope with tomorrow.

Bite size chunks There may be grand visions for a new system, but the more that it is expected to achieve on day one, the harder it gets and the longer and more costly the implementation will become. Focussing on a core of ‘must have’ improvements that are a part of the bigger picture and getting these working first is essential. Consider starting your project in one department or with one team. It’s much easier to build on early success than to try to do it all at once.

Commitment from top to bottom To make a project a success it must gain commitment at both ends of the organisation. There must be recognition from senior management about the importance of the project and their support for the changes that will follow in the way the organisation works. And buy-in from staff whose jobs will be changed by the system, - the sooner they are involved in the project (even if its just the occasional briefing) the greater their commitment. Their enthusiasm will help ensure the success of a project.

How will it work Once your application is in use, people will potentially undertake new jobs that perhaps have not been considered or previously needed. For example, who will be the guardian of data quality? This will be an essential but potentially time consuming job that will help complete confidence in the data in the system. The important point here is that there are on-going commitments that will have to be met to ensure the system runs successfully. Failing to think about this from the start will either lead to poor maintenance or surprises for a few staff later on when they find they have unplanned work to fit in.

The way we were Occasionally the benefits of new software solutions can be intangible and hard to measure; with improvements hard to quantify. In order to be able to demonstrate the difference a project has made in a tangible way, then before commencement is the time to measure and record what it used to be like. The criteria used will be entirely objective, according to the way the business works and the things that that are hoped to improve.

Oiling the wheels of progress Implementing a successful solution is an ongoing process within the business. It is not simply an activity that reaches a natural conclusion and change stops. Investigating a new solution now because there is a need to improve aspects of the organisations’ interaction with its customers does not preclude that the bank has competitors and business changes from day to day and year to year. Even if the business has developed a tactical solution to a business need, the support it offers will need to change and develop over time. Used strategically a solution has the potential to help a bank achieve competitive advantage in its marketplace and to maintain this advantage, banks will need to keep the ongoing enhancement of the system a consideration in its longer term business plans. Coming soon Part 2 - Implementation