Through our years as digital transformation experts, one common area of concern in nearly every ERP initiative is that of Go-Live readiness. It’s a huge subject and critical path for any organization implementing any form of enterprise software.
In fact, lack of go-live readiness is a key driver of recent ERP failures. Companies such as LeasePlan, Lidl, and Revlon all failed largely because they didn’t properly prepare for the actual go-live event.
Here are three of the most common and critical go-live obstacles we encounter:
1. Poor System Testing
Companies don’t do enough testing. This is especially true for projects that fail and those that we get involved with as an ERP expert witness. Testing is broad subject so let’s get a little more specific:
You want to test both functional and nonfunctional scenarios and requirements, including requirements and systems architecture. You are trying to find out how the system will perform when functionality is bundled. Be diligent and creative by introducing scenarios that could cause problems – either in processing or downstream outputs. You want to intentionally try to “break the system” to reduce the chance of issues after deployment.
Multiple rounds of testing should be done. Use the number “three” as a guide but depending on your tech specifics more rounds may be needed. For example, if testing is being performed on a specific software that’s one thing. But typically, the software will be expected to interface with multiple other systems. Don’t underestimate what this adds to the complexity of your testing. Likewise, if code changes are performed, you want to be sure to diligently re-test after any change.
Create test environments that resemble what the real environment will look like when deployed. You’ll benefit from this type of testing by trying to emulate software functions from an end user perspective. This is also referred to as behavioral or black box testing and touches upon user acceptance and the functional aspects of the software. This will surface different types of issues – unlike white box testing that focuses on code structure, internal design, etc.
2. Your Data Plan is Weak
You might be surprised to hear that over 70 percent of companies have issues with data at go-live. It’s a challenge that many don’t see coming, or don’t devote the right resources or enough time to beforehand.
If you think data migration means the transfer of data between systems, you’d be right. If you think it’s not a big risk at go-live, you’d be wrong. View it as a beast having multiple tentacles – data cleansing, data validation, data mapping, data access protocols, data export, etc. Our experience is that many companies don’t prioritize this topic high enough within their digital transformation strategies.
The amount of companies migrating data to the cloud is soaring. This creates other types of migration challenges, security being one. Decisions must be made about paying for a third-party public cloud, private cloud or a cloud hybrid. The storage format between an on-premise system and cloud solution is very different so plan for additional data analysis. If your business still uses paper, you will need help in digitizing.
3. Lack of Organizational Change Management
Many companies implementing cloud technology are coming from on-premise. The more successful a company is in taking advantage of cloud architecture – the more disruptive. Thus, the degree of change on how employees will perform their jobs will be radical (especially in public cloud). You’re now not only talking about adoption, but usually some extensive re-training. New cloud agility and protocols have negative business consequences if not planned for and handled with a comprehensive, well-funded change management initiative. Unmanaged change becomes the enemy.
Companies are developing a type of nose-blindness when it comes to good organizational change management (OCM) strategies. In other words, they are losing their sense of smell when it comes to detecting OCM issues. OCM is well-written and talked about in the ERP and digital transformation space.
So, with increased awareness why do so many ignore OCM or treat it like an item to cross off their to-do list? As consultants, some of our most challenging engagements are picking up the pieces of digital transformations going sideways because of OCM ignorance. Technology alone can’t and won’t change how things are done. The takeaway is that many companies are failing to implement an effective OCM strategy. Cultural change won’t happen by itself and your business will feel the impact at go-live.
Training is one primary example. We often see go-live checklists that have people’s names checked-off for training. When we talk to these individuals, however, it is clear that they have no idea what they are walking into. Training is not a “show users the system and hope they use it” scenario. User understanding needs to be tested, both from a system as well as process perspective. In the worst case we have seen, users were sent a link to the system user manual, and “training” was completed once a user clicked on the link.
With productivity up and flattened organizations the norm, employee resilience is taking a beating. Recognize this as you embark on your major IT transformations. The volatility and complexity of a digital transformation can be managed but not avoided, which is why we’ve outlined three important things to watch out for at go-live. There are many more. An independent ERP consultant (that’s done this repeatedly with success) might just be a welcome addition to your bench.