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Ship Shape: snagging issues and other key points to fully integrate the system into your business

Olivia FitzGerald

December 20 2016,
Olivia FitzGerald

The system is live and the process of fully integrating it into your casual dining business is well underway. But there will inevitably be issues to iron out and now is no time to rest on your laurels.

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In an ideal world, integrating a new IT system into your business would go something like this: you’d press a big button, there would be a satisfying noise, everybody would applaud and that would be it.

Unfortunately, in the real world it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

One of our favourite descriptions of the process comes from Gartner research VP Thomas Otter, who told Computer Weekly that integrating systems was rather like being a vet sewing a dog’s tail back on. “Integration is easy if you know which is the dog and which is the tail,” he said. “But you run into problems if you try to stitch two dogs together.”

Make sure people hear the right messages

One of the most common issues that arises after the introduction of a new system is resistance from the people who’ll be using it. If the system is seen as something imposed from on high rather than a welcome upgrade then unimportant issues can easily be blown up out of all proportion.

That’s why it’s so important to sell the system on its benefits to the people who will be using it not just in the run-up to the roll-out, but afterwards as well. Identifying easy wins, the good news stories resulting from the new system, should be communicated widely and enthusiastically.

That doesn’t mean being deaf to people’s legitimate concerns, though. The people at the sharp end are much more likely to spot potential problems and niggling issues than people at managerial levels or above, so it’s important to regard communication as a two-way street. By all means cheerlead the new system, but listen out for the early warnings your employees may be giving you. Remember that going live isn’t the end of the roll-out but the beginning of a new chapter.

Don’t be a jack of all trades

The new system may have the potential to transform every single part of your business and maximise the efficiency of absolutely everything, but it doesn’t have to do all of those things on day one. It’s much better to take an incremental approach that delivers your core objectives first and then adds additional features later than to charge around trying to transform everything at once. Prioritise according to business need: what will have the most positive impact on the business?

Don’t be distracted from potential data disasters

Another common issue is being distracted by the shiny new system and its wonderful features without fully considering the issues that may arise from your legacy systems.

Even if legacy data is being transferred, it often needs to be cleaned up or changed to fit the new system’s data structures - and of course there are often regulatory requirements that need to be adhered to as well. It’s crucially important to verify the integrity of your legacy data before, during and after the migration, as errors or incompatibilities may well stay hidden until the new system is live. And if you aren’t migrating data, you’ll need a plan for its safe storage in accordance with your organisation’s own procedures and any regulatory compliance.

Speed isn’t everything

Whether it’s preparing a meal or a full data migration, speed isn’t always of the essence: rushing to hit a deadline can mean cutting corners that you’ll come to regret later on. If it becomes apparent that timescales for key factors such as training or infrastructure improvements have been too optimistic, don’t try to stick to the original programme; change the timetable. Any time you save by sticking to the schedule now will be tiny compared to the time required to fix any shortcuts or unnecessary resistance to change.

With training, it’s a good idea to continue the training after the go-live date. A new system can involve a lot of learning, so you may find that the best approach is to train employees in the core features first and then introduce more advanced or additional features once they’ve got the hang of the initial batch. Get feedback from your training too, ideally afterwards: people will often voice criticisms online or anonymously that they won’t say in a group session. As with data, sometimes you don’t know there’s an issue with your training materials or delivery until you’ve actually delivered them.

Ask the right questions

In the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, a super-intelligent race of beings build a supercomputer called Deep Thought to come up with the answer to life, the universe and everything. After seven and half million years thinking about this, its answer is 42. It turns out that the super-intelligent beings didn’t really know what their question meant, and they had to build another supercomputer to work out what the question meant.

You don’t need to build a supercomputer or wait millennia for answers, but it’s important to ask the right questions about your roll-out. If you’ve set measurable and specific objectives or key performance indicators, then monitoring against those objectives can give you a very good picture of the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

And that will enable you to target resources at any area where performance isn’t what you might have hoped for.

Points to remember:

  • Employees at the sharp end will spot issues that management are unaware of.

  • Audits, evaluation and assessment of performance against KPIs are crucial.

  • It’s better to slow or reschedule deadlines than cut corners or rush training.

  • It's likely that data you move will need to be cleaned. Data that is not moved over to the new system will need to be stored somewhere.

  • You don’t have to activate every fantastic new feature at once. Start with the core improvements and go from there.

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