A key part of software implementation planning is setting your project milestones and deadlines. But when ERP implementations take almost a third longer than expected, how do you ensure that yours won’t?
Do you want to get your project timings right? Here’s our tips to help you set realistic software implementation timelines and avoid impractical and idealistic goals.
Why You Need to Be Realistic About Timelines
When your project timelines are not realistic, you risk that your implementation will overrun. If, for whatever reason, you don’t achieve the major milestones on time, the entire project will be late.
You may have based your plans on idealistic and perfect timings. But this is short-sighted. Even the best-laid plans can be disrupted by holdups out of your control. So, you need to set realistic timeframes and incorporate additional time rather than trying to meet an unrealistic deadline and end up cutting corners to hurrying things along.
Project overruns can not only lead to an imperfect deployment but can also mean your budget is stretched. Your deployment team will need to take longer on the project, which will cost you more and may have a knock-on effect on other aspects, incurring even more costs.
Setting Accurate Timescales
To set a realistic timeframe, you should work closely with your software partner. With their experience, they can guide you on how long they have spent on similar implementations. They will know how long it takes to deploy the level of functionality and integration you need, having done this for others in your industry.
Push back on anything that you think may be unrealistic, though. A software partner that proposes an unrealistic timeline may seem impressive – but achieving those timeframes may just be an impossible boast. Ensure that they give a detailed breakdown of all the chronological milestones, so that you can check that key project requirements are included.
A project planning tool can help – like Jira, Basecamp or even Gantt chart software. And you may choose to follow a project management methodology such as PRINCE2, waterfall or agile. With a summary of the important aspects of the project and the ability to set dependencies between tasks, you should be able to build a detailed project plan. Charts and project flows provide an easy view of the project and allow you to see how things change if deadlines are missed.
To avoid projects simply going over time, one way to proceed is to work backwards from the date that you want the software to go live. You need to think carefully about this and not set an arbitrary date. If it turns out that you cannot easily accomplish an implementation within that timeframe, then it’s best to set a later target date than to assume you can meet the tight deadline.
Then set milestone dates for each part of the project. Ensure that you take into consideration the availability of key team members – from both your company and your software partner’s. Consider scheduled annual leave and national holidays – and even check training room availability.
Don’t just base each project element on how long it takes to do that task, either. There may be dependencies to consider, or additional time for stage approvals and handing over to the next phase.
The timescales you set with your implementation partner will be based on what you want to achieve with your software. Don’t forget that if you change the scope, even slightly, then it will almost certainly take longer to implement.
Don’t miss out key aspects of the project. You will need to incorporate some initial time for discovery, to clearly detail the scope and functionality needs of the project. Then you need to allow your implementation partner time to define and design the implementation in detail. Development time can be identified by your partner, but it will depend to some extent on how much functionality has been designed into the project in the previous stages. This stage involves the technical implementation itself, configuring the database and customising the software. Then there’s time needed for data collation, cleansing and migration. This often takes far longer than initially thought but can at least be going on behind the scenes. And finally, build in sufficient time for system testing and user training before you go live.
Check with other companies that the time you have accounted for is reasonable. Your implementation partner will be able to supply references that you can verify timings with. And you may have staff that have worked on similar projects before who can also confirm if your suggested timescales are reasonable.
Finally, you must build in some contingency time. There is always the chance that something will go wrong, or a date can slip due to someone being off sick. You may even suddenly find that you can’t live without a piece of functionality that you had earlier ruled out. Changes and unforeseen delays like this affect everything that follows. So, build in some extra time at each stage of the project in for these sorts of eventualities.
Realistic Implementation Timelines Help Manage Expectations
If you follow our tips, then you are less likely to miss key deadlines and your project is more likely to achieve its ultimate deadlines.
By setting realistic milestones, you will better manage the expectations of everyone involved – both internally and externally. And even if the timescales you set are longer than others might have originally anticipated, it is better to meet these than to fail to achieve unrealistic ones.
ERP Implementation in 30 Days
Every company is different, but if you sell goods and are looking to implement a standardised version of NetSuite ERP, then you can achieve it more quickly with NoBlue. With NoBlue Now, we guarantee to get you up and running within 30 days of signing the contract. So, that’s most of the time planning done for you. For more information, contact us today.