Implementation of a system is as much important as the creation of it. Implementation can easily destroy the good work done in the earlier phases and bring the system to a standstill. Implementation requires technical and managerial skills as the implementers work as change agents. Implementation is also a process that has a series of sequential steps which culminates in making operational the new system.
Implementation as an activity has to be carefully managed. It requires client interaction at every stage. The implementers need the full support and cooperation of the client and the IS department functionaries to successfully execute the implementation of information systems. In order to help them perform this task of implementation smoothly, a series of predefined steps are followed. These implementation tasks are as follows:
It is the series of action-oriented steps planned for making the implementation smooth. It normally involves the following steps:
- Creating a master schedule of the implementation activities
- Setting timelines for critical and non-critical activities
- Identifying major bottlenecks and their solutions
- Communication of the plan.
This step is required to help the user community to understand the time frame for installation of the new system. Communication plays a vital role in the implementation and without proper communication especially, from the top management on the installation and implementation of the new system the change management will be difficult. Resistance to change related issues will come to the fore making the difficult task of implementation more difficult. Communication of the plan of implementation to the user community helps the users to prepare for the change and makes them mentally prepared for it. The communication is required to be formal so that rumors cannot be spread about the system. The communication process may itself be in several phases. The top level can communicate the general intent of the new system and then detailed briefings to staff may be left to the divisional heads. The communication process also indicates (indirectly), the role each employee is required to play in the implementation process.
Organizing the MIS Department
The MIS department will be the custodian of the new system. Hence, they have to be gear up to support the new system. Organization of the department is therefore necessary before the new system becomes operational. The roles of each member of the MIS department have to be clearly laid out before the new system becomes operational. Effort is made to ensure that the role of the MIS staff is understood by each member of the organization. Training is provided to those who need training on the new system so that they in turn can help others. This process of organizing the MIS department starts much before the actual implementation process begins as it entails some hiring and training which requires some lead time. The organization is done in such a timeframe that staff is available when the actual implementation starts. This enables the MIS staff to provide support to the implementation team, when the implementation process starts. This will also help the MIS staff to understand the nitty-gritty of the new system as they will be able to get a hands-on experience in the implementation of the new system.
Selection and Procurement of Hardware
This step of the implementation process is an important step as it involves huge investments. Proper care is taken to ensure that the organization gets the best deal from such selection and procurement of the hardware. The process of selection and procurement of hardware also varies greatly from firm to firm depending on the size of the firm and the sector in which it operates the type of management. However, the following procedure is followed:
- Preparation of vendor list-a list of reliable vendors is prepared. This list of vendors may be prepared after analyzing the vendor management experience of the organization with different vendors or may be prepared based on some accepted list of vendors in that business space prepared by some organization of repute or some industry body/regulatory body. The vendors that are selected to be part of the list are chosen carefully after a thorough checking of their credentials and goodwill in the market. This is essential as the vendor relationship is based on trust and compromise and not only on the basis of strict commercial terms.
- Preparation of RFP-the implementation team must prepare the request for proposal document based on their understanding of the hardware requirement of the new system. The RFP must have complete technical details about the required hardware systems including specifications, format, performance expectation, and warranty and service quality requirements. This document is prepared by the implementers in consultation with the development team, management of the organization and the MIS team of the organization so that the need for each specification is well established and there is no scope for any difference of opinion. The consultative process results in the RFP which is a technical document. The RFP also has commercial details which the implementation team prepares in consultation with the management of the organization. The RFP is a quasi-legal document in some countries and proper legal opinion is normally sought before sending it to the enlisted vendors.
- Request for bids/proposal to select vendors-after the RFP is prepared it is sent by some mode of communication to the enlisted set of vendors. The communication medium can be an open advertisement in print or electronic media or may be in the form of a letter to the vendors with a deadline for submission of the proposal.
- Evaluation of RFP-this is a difficult process. After bids are received before the deadline, they are checked (preliminary check) for basic errors. Those found to be prima facie proper are then evaluated. Several methods of evaluation exist. The evaluation could be on the basis of cost alone or quality alone or may be a mix of both cost and quality. Typically, a score based system of evaluation is used to rank the vendors' proposals. Scores are assigned to each attribute of a vendor's proposal like cost, goodwill, track record and service quality guarantee. Based on the weight age given to each attribute a composite score is prepared, which is used to evaluate the proposals. Whatever tJ1emethodology for evaluating the proposal, one must take care to apply the same evaluation criteria to all proposals. Different yardsticks should not be applied to different proposals.
- Selection of vendor-based on the evaluation a single vendor or a select set of vendors are chosen for delivery of hardware. Contract negotiations and price negotiations are held with this select group of vendors and following the successful completion of the negotiations the final contract will be signed.
Procurement of Software
The new system being implemented will have been created based on assumptions of operating environment of the organization. Procurement of system software is done on similar lines as the procurement of hardware. The only difference in the case of procurement of software is that the choice of what software to purchase is already made at the design stage of the system development and hence, the RFP preparation process is straightforward. The implementation team need not prepare the specification for the system software. They only need to procure the system software that the new system is designed to run on. The rest of the process is almost similar to the hardware procurement process.
Creating the Database
The new system to be implemented will have data stores. In modern systems, data stores are databases. These databases are relational database management systems, which is a separate application software package. The database has to be created and structures inside the database have to be created in order to enable it to store data. The implementation team creates the database, its structures and rules so that the application system being implemented can be plugged into the database and start working.
Training of Users
Implementation is a larger issue than installation. The new system may get installed but without proper training of users, it may not be of good use. Implementation is a larger concept and focuses on the installation and hand-holding part of the transition process. A training needs assessment is done to understand the training needs of the users. A training programme is planned and the required training given to users. This is an important part of the implementation process and helps in reducing the resistance to change related behavior among the user community. The training also helps users to appreciate the new features of the new system and helps build trust and appreciation for the new system.
Creating Physical Infrastructure
The new system being implemented may require a physical infrastructure. The implementation team must ensure that the system performance must not suffer due to infrastructure bottlenecks. The implementers will have to use their persuasive skills and convince the management of the organization to create the required physical infrastructure so that it does not affect the performance of the new system.
Transition to the New System
This is the last step in the implementation process. The transition if done wrongly leads to a lot of pain. Hence, it is necessary to move slowly on the transition front. Normally, after the new system is installed and ready, the new system and the old system are both used for a period to ensure that the company performance does not suffer due to transition problems. Slowly when the users gain more capability to handle the new system the old system is phased out.
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