From my observation, I noticed that people in business are at times unsure of how to approach a change-over to a new process. The fundamental reason, in my view, is that as humans, people are fearful of the unknown; and to change to something unfamiliar is invariably categorised as something fearful.
Nonetheless, there are steps available to make the process less painful for those willing to take up the challenge of moving into unfamiliar territory. This is often coupled with the strong desire that the change will be for the better, for the business.
The cross-over steps are focussed on SME start-ups and businesses. A summary of some of the steps in managing the cross-over is described below.
Step 1: Make sure the reasons for change are assessed and rationalised. For example, there is a need for a business system that can be accessed anywhere and at any time; or there is a need to better manage the information on financial position and profitability in the business.
Step 2: Assess the IT equipment that the business has, and the status of data communication to the internet. Are they still usable or is there a need for new IT equipment? In today’s environment of online business transactions, the business must be equipped adequately for this.
Step 3: Budget-wise, assess how much realistically can the business spend for the new process. It is important to note that there will also be costs other than the software.
Step 4: Discuss the proposed solution and the plans for implementation with the vendor. Here, the current processes in the business is mapped to the new process under the proposed solution. Do not expect a 100% match. Emphasis is on targeting an 80% fit to the current process. For the remaining 20% balance, see whether the business process can be changed, or performed outside the system. Focus on the content and not the forms. If the necessary data is captured, that will be good enough.
Step 5: Try to get two installations of the new system. A “live” version where live data are updated, and a “test” version which can double-up as “training” version. The test/training version is where updates can be tested and mistakes can be done without endangering anything.
Step 6: Start work on testing the new process and make sure that the results are as expected. However, be prepared to make some changes to the business process; and be mindful of the 80/20 rule on the new system fit.
Step 7: Prepare a “go-live” strategy. This strategy may also mean that for a period of time, there will be work on both the old and new processes. Keep paper copies and screen-shots of things for a while. That way, things can always be recreated if need be.
Step 8: Make sure the right people get the right training. “Super-user” should be trained more rigorously as required.
Step 9: The business finally need to plan on how to “go-live”. Business need to decide and execute whether to start all at once (“big-bang” approach), or a little at a time by module or by functions (“phased” approach).
Step 10: After “go-live”, review the situation as there will be things that crop-up. Plan for this. There is also a need to look at the next phase; be it the next module to “go-live”, or implementing the nice-to-haves.