26 March 2010

Generating Business to IT Alignment for successful packaged software (COTS) implementations

You've decided on the software you need, the business side has bought into it, and you've even picked your integrator. Now the hard work begins: Making sure that your software deployment strategy sets your company up for success, and that means making sure Business, IT and the Implementation Partner are in alignment.

First, we need to understand that Business, IT and the Implementation Partner are coming from different perspectives. Every party has a knowledge gap to address. Business best understands their existing business model and the underlying success drivers. The Implementation Partner understands the packaged software and has multiple years of implementation experience. IT best understands how technology supports the existing business model as well as how best to utilize existing corporate IT technologies. Alignment is generated only when a common understanding of the business model, packaged software and technology capabilities are shared by all three parties. When this alignment occurs there is effective communications and faster decision-making. Decisions move implementations forward.

Following is a recommended set of steps to develop a common understanding for effective collaboration during the COTS implementation:

1. Document existing business processes

It is an area that I see many packaged software implementations lack. The typical challenge I get is "Why document my existing business processes if I know they are changing?" Here are my reasons:

  • Business users may not have a consistent understanding of their existing business model. Going through the exercise of documenting business processes will highlight these differences and driver deeper understanding.
  • Documenting the existing business model will enable you to highlight the EXACT organizational changes that will occur. How can you manage organizational change when you do not have a clear understanding of what's changing?
  • Business process maps can be a key source of information to quickly educate IT and the Implementation Partner on the existing business process model.
2. Educate IT and the Implementation Partner on the existing business model

Business should take a formal, iterative process to educate IT and the Implementation Partner on the existing business model. The entire project team should be involved in this training and should progress from a solution-level overview to a detailed business-role level "day-in-the-life" review. Following is a suggested approach for conducting this training:

3. Complete packaged software training BEFORE the Implementation Partner arrives

Just as it is important for your Implementation Partner to understand your business model and your business language it is important that Business and IT have an understanding of the packaged software and its language. Effective communication is a two party effort. Taking the required packaged software training before the arrival of your Implementation Partner will enable you to more effectively work together.

4. Have the Implementation Partner conduct supplemental packaged software training

Education is an iterative process - you will never learn everything you need to know for supporting packaged software in a classroom. Packaged software providers provide foundational training. I always say that the Implementation Partner completes your packaged software training. Implementation Partners have hands-on experience with configuration and maintenance of packaged software solutions.

5. Implementation documentation should be more business-oriented

Nothing encourages alignment more than being able to think like your end customer. Too often we create project documentation that focuses more on technology than business reasoning and justification. There are times were I am guilty of moving too quickly from what needs to be done to how will it be done without completely understanding why does it need to be done. At the end of the day we build software to drive business results.


Business to IT alignment is a strategic goal that can only be reached by taking tactical steps to bring Business and IT closer together to generate mutual understanding and trust. Implementing packaged software is an opportunity to generate greater alignment by developing a common language for effective collaboration. When alignment is achieved then decision-making is effective.

Adapted from the book Maximize Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for Successful Packaged Software Implementations by Brett Beaubouef.

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