Phase Two: the forgotten aspects

Sooner or later, all packaged software implementations enter what I call Phase 2. This roll-out phase is loosely translated as “Later, much later” or “Not in my lifetime.”

Unfortunately, the organizational adjustment related to any package implementation always uses the second definition of Phase 2. That’s a pity because companies can really benefit by matching their organization models, internal procedures and processing methods to the tools at hand, or even those being considered. If you add the new Phase 2 functionality into the equation, adjusting the organization at the same time can pay dividends. At the end of it, companies have the functionality they purchased working in the organization they envisioned.

So why doesn’t it usually work this way? Package implementations, network architecture and systems operations fall to the IS world. Did the company executive understand the potential impact on the organization? Did we tell them? Have we reminded the executive that some of the benefits spelled out in the cost justification involved departments other than IS? Have we become trapped in small “p” politics, turf wars and just plain lethargy? Possibly, but a more likely reason for resistance to organization change is that it’s always seen as being more difficult and more expensive than it has to be. Organization adjustments are always difficult because nobody wants to take the responsibility. The key is to assign the responsibility and follow through.

We’re not talking wholesale reorganization here; we’re talking adjustments to take into account new tools, additional functions and better business integration. To my way of thinking, that has more to do with procedures, workflow and job simplification than it does reorganization. The fact that there may be some organization adjustment can be accepted more readily if the improvements arising from the better use of the application can be demonstrated.

Let me give you a typical example. Human Resources and Payroll usually spend a lot of time trading paper back and forth. In the typical modern integrated HRMS/Payroll application, the HR people can hire the employee, enter all of the necessary employee data and set up pay and benefits before the employee actually joins the company. Effective dating allows Payroll to pay the employee automatically if the effective date and start date actually coincided. If they didn’t coincide, either HR or the branch that owns the employee can adjust the start date. Either way, the workload in this situation is spread more broadly and the branch responsible for various aspects of employee administration takes the necessary action in the system. A smart company will look at the distribution of administrative resources and adjust them to suit the jobs and tools at hand. If payroll clerks used to enter the employee data based on paper from HR, why not have them move into HR, enter the data there and eliminate the paper?

There are variations on this example, and there are other applications with similar challenges such as Purchasing and Accounts Payable. IS Departments aren’t seen as the most appropriate people to lead an organization change (unless someone else is doing it to them), but they can certainly lead the way in procedures, workflow and job simplification related to new systems.

This is another area where knowledgeable application partners can be both cost-effective and helpful. The key thing to remember is that when you create the project to implement the new functions in Phase 2, include the cost and effort to do the job simplification, procedures training and organization adjustment. It will pay for itself quickly.

Horner is a partner in Sierra Systems Consultants Corporate Enterprise Systems practice in Vancouver. He can be reached at [email protected].

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