Eight tips for a successful Customer Information System (CIS) implementation
There are countless benefits to modern technology, from increased efficiency, to enabling scalable growth, to better customer service. However, a high percentage of projects fail due to blown budgets, missed deadlines, or simply not having the ability to meet the original objectives. This often leads to organizations avoiding enterprise technology projects altogether.
It doesn’t have to be that way. With proper planning and an awareness of common risks, you can achieve a successful CIS implementation. It’s critical you perform the appropriate due diligence to ensure you’re implementing the CIS solution that is best aligned with your business needs. Once that’s occurred, the following areas are vital to success:
- Contract and Statement of Work (SOW): As you perform contract negotiations, ensure that the contract and SOW detail each party’s responsibilities, and that there are clear escalation paths and protections in place.
- Governance structure and executive support: A project governance structure that includes all major stakeholders from each department affected by the CIS implementation is key to your project’s success. Executive leadership must communicate the importance of the CIS implementation and their commitment to providing staff and managers with the necessary support to succeed in their project roles. It’s vital to keep an eye on morale throughout this process and try to explore and set morale-boosting activities.
- Project initiation: Start the project off with a bang! Have a kickoff meeting, and invite all future system users to a celebration. Share the project overview; this includes your objectives, goals, scope, risks, and mitigation strategies. Share the roles and responsibilities of all project members so they feel a part of the project. Continue celebrations with the project team after completing major milestones.
- Perform process redesign early: Staff should assess their current processes to see how they could be redesigned at the start of the project, after the software functionality is understood. Process owners, end users, and the vendor alike, should be involved in process redesign to ensure the entire process is known, and the future-state process supports the needs of all stakeholders.
- Data conversion decisions: Try not to convert all of your data if it’s not absolutely necessary. The more data converted, the more work it is to review. If your CIS vendor has never converted data from your legacy system, account for this in your timeline and plan for as many conversion passes needed for a successful parallel run.
- Testing: Send meeting invites for stakeholders to come to a common area to do their testing, so it can be separated from their day-to-day responsibilities. Testing of all functions should be completed after every conversion pass (even those functions that worked before). Don’t forget to test scenarios that should fail!
- Go-live: Don’t go live with critical issues unresolved, and at least one successful parallel for each major cycle. With new bills and/or a new customer portal, your call volume will increase considerably. Consider going live with billing first and introduce the new customer portal later, one cycle at a time. Learn from your first cycle, and change when necessary for a more successful rollout on the next cycle.
- Plan for post-live: No matter how much an organization plans for go-live, post-live issues will still arise. Developing a game plan to tackle these issues can help resolve issues swiftly.
- Utilize customer service representatives (CSRs) to track common issues they encounter.
- Request on-site support from the software vendor after go-live for a few weeks to ensure that issues are resolved in a timely manner. Plan for extra support at the first month-end as well.
- Monitor social media, and appoint someone to respond to issues discussed online. This could mean providing outreach to specific people or groups that aren’t on the organization’s social media pages (e.g. responding to Twitter posts that tag the organization, joining any local Facebook groups, local Nextdoor groups, etc.)
- Allocate funds in your budget for ongoing training. Whether it’s due to staff turnover, cross-training, or just refresher courses, this training is important to maximize the value your organization is receiving from the software.
Since a CIS enterprise technology project typically only happens once every 15–20 years, it can be intimidating. However, foregoing the operational improvements and the customer service advantages that come with the use of modern enterprise technology is even more costly. While investment in an independent third-party advisor may seem expensive, leveraging the experience of a firm with the experience of numerous successful implementations is invaluable. Not delivering the planned outcomes, going over budgets, missing deadlines, or going live unsuccessfully can negatively impact your organization and anyone that interacts with it.
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