Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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New CIO.com blog post | 5 ways a consultant can benefit your software implementation

lifecycle-navigationIf you shudder when you hear the word “consultant,” you’re not alone. Yet a consultant can invigorate and strengthen your software initiative, while saving time and money.

Here are five ways that a consultant can positively impact your software initiative (read the full post).

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Debunking common software implementation myths

I read an article this morning about three ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation myths. I come across the same ones in EHS (environment, health & safety) software implementations. Let the debunking begin…

Myth 1. You cannot use your software selection consultant to implement the software.

no entryI have seen resistance to using a software selection consultant to implement the software. The hiring organization perceived that the consulting firm could not do both; there should be a separation between selection and implementation.

If your consultant has proven project management, communications, subject matter and technical skills to successfully implement the software, then use them. Once your consultant helps you to document and prioritize needs and select software, then they know your needs and business better than anyone else at this point! Take advantage of this knowledge.

Bringing in another group to implement the software will cost you lost productivity, duplication of efforts, extended timelines, and other avoidable costs.

Myth 2. You must have a software vendor or reseller implement your software.

sign-160675_1280While the software vendor/reseller should be conversant in the software, they may lack subject matter expertise or a broader perspective of implementation best practices.

Instead, I recommend a team approach to implementation:

  1. an integrator/implementer that is comfortable with the software and its configuration,
  2. vendor representatives–implementation and product specialists, and
  3. software customer key stakeholders.

Myth 3. The most important aspect of implementation is technical proficiency.

signs-38588_1280I have seen talented technical staff lead software implementations that become “challenged” when the teams focused solely on technical issues.  Warning!

Instead, I recommend a team skilled in several disciplines. Beyond technical (IT) proficiency, subject matter expertise, and industry experience, remember to round out the team with skill sets such as:

  • project management
  • risk management
  • business process management
  • organizational change management
  • training
  • analytics
  • etc.

With these implementation myths are debunked, you can make more informed decisions on your path forward for software implementation. This is my “quick take.” You can read the Panorama Consulting perspective here.


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Windows XP support ending soon

Microsoft stops support for the Windows XP operating system (OS) early in April, and stops support for the associated malware software in July. Despite Microsoft’s warnings to update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 before “end of support,” many large organizations continue to use the almost 13-year-old computer operating system. It is the most popular OS next to Windows 7. And some companies will switch to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.x.

windows-xp-computer

Image: Microsoft

Companies can

  1. continue to use Windows XP and later change to another OS;
  2. upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1; or
  3. upgrade to an OS such as Chrome OS, Mac OSX Mavericks or Android.

Windows XP end of support allows an opportunity to evaluate how IT needs have changed in the last 13 years. Organizations can decide which new technologies—hardware, operating systems, mobile, Cloud and Big Data—will work best for them.

The next “IT Insight” column, Windows XP sails into the sunset… maybeappears in em Magazine on April 1. Check back here or on our web site early in April for a link to the column.


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Converging IT trends cause IT organizations to refocus strategies

Four trends–cloud computing, mobility, big data and social networking are changing the face of how we manage, analyze and apply information–in a positive way. Like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), these trends are an example of IT Consumerization, which Wikipedia defines as

the growing tendency for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business and government organizations.

These trends impact individuals, businesses and IT organizations. According to Aternity in Managing IT through the Lens of the End User,

The emergence of consumer markets as the primary driver of information technology innovation is seen as a major IT industry shift, as large business and government organizations dominated the early decades of computer usage and development.

four-color-puzzle-piecesThese four trends cause IT to shift from a business and operational focus to a user-centric focus. IT organizations need to consider IT availability, performance, value and ROI.

 


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Increasing the probability of software implementation success

Last week I attended a Webinar that focused on the leading environment, health & safety (EHS) software companies. During the Q&A period, an attendee commented that, while the software may lead the market, the firms that implement the software may not be up to snuff. This results in problematic implementations and unhappy clients.

At a business lunch the next day, a colleague asked why some EHS consulting firms are less successful than others when it comes to implementation. I replied that implementation success is not about the software alone. No matter how feature-packed, intuitive and functional the software package, it takes more than software-savvy subject matter experts and EHS-savvy software engineers for a truly successful implementation. The implementation team requires proven methodology, good project management and social skills, and the ability to foster user acceptance.

  • proven methodology is important throughout the entire software life cycle–from concept through business needs analysis and software evaluation and selection to  design, system configuration, rollout and support. Proven methodology helps to reduce the margin of error and ultimately saves the  client time.
  • project management skills are important in planning, budgeting and tracking, and critical in managing “scope creep.” Project management skills are critical in areas such as IT risk management and identifying and recommending solutions to issues as they arise.
  • social skills are important since enterprise-scale IT projects involve different stakeholders with competing agendas. Members of the implementation team must be able to communicate with people at many levels and in various functions within the client organization. Some of the members must excel in facilitation skills, particularly when the group must reach a fact-based consensus. They must be able to work without showing bias towards certain stakeholders or software packages.
  • user acceptance often will “make or break” an implementation. Fostering user acceptance requires organizational change management expertise, something often overlooked during large IT projects. Organizational change management activities should occur throughout the software life cycle, and include much more than training. Read more about organizational change management here.

If you contemplate starting an IT initiative in the EHS arena, or to manage other subject matter, make sure that you have a professional leading the effort. Hands-on experience in the above areas can increase the probability of success in software implementations. Of course, these are a select few of all of the skills required. Read more about IT program management here.


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Must technology be so disruptive?

Disruptive technology describes a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen separates technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technology relies on incremental improvements to an already established technology. Disruptive technology lacks refinement, often has performance problems because it is new, appeals to a limited audience, and may not yet have a proven practical application.

Photo: Apple

When it comes to software, most businesses adapt better to the incremental changes of sustainable technology. They understand that change happens—software upgrades and patches occur fairly frequently and, in most cases, work goes on with no training and little disruption. However, major software changes can disrupt work, resulting in lost productivity until users are trained on and adopt the new technology.

Two examples of disruptive technology come from Apple and Microsoft. Apple announced its new iPhone last week, sporting a new dock connector. Those who wish to use their old iPhone and iPad chargers and cables need an expensive adapter. Microsoft radically changed its user interface in Windows 8. The Start button is gone. Some PC users I know are hardly adjusted to the big change in interface from Windows XP to Windows Vista and Windows 7.

I understand that disruptive technology—like microwave ovens and cell phones—can be both revolutionary and good. But must it be so disruptive?


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Companies often overlook organizational change management in enterprise software initiatives

Whether you are considering a brand new enterprise EHS software application, or replacing or updating legacy systems, change happens. Change is unsettling, and people’s past experiences and emotions affect the way that they perceive it. Change management is a “people” issue that companies often overlook or do not give sufficient attention when taking on an enterprise software initiative.

Organizational change management is a structured approach to get people from the current state to the desired state. It is a process that involves preparing for change, managing change and reinforcing change. This process involves much more than training, and parallels the software/systems life cycle.

How you handle the change and prepare your people can make or break your IT initiative. Read IT Insight column, Change Happens… Embrace It! to learn how to create an atmosphere that enables software-related changes to work in your organization.