Examining the Complexities of Public-Sector Software Implementations

Why do so many software implementations in the public sector fail, stall or never reach their full potential? Are they buying the wrong software, are they using the wrong consulting firm or is it something completely different?
Linda Misegadis, Kronos | October 31, 2019 AT 6:00 PM
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Why do so many software implementations in the public sector fail, stall or never reach their full potential? Are they buying the wrong software, are they using the wrong consulting firm or is it something completely different? I’ve had the unique opportunity to successfully implement enterprise software in a large city and now work for a software company that sells human capital software to the public sector. These experiences have led to a few thoughts.

First, there’s no denying that the public sector is complicated. The public sector is like a single employer that covers multiple industries. Each of those industries has distinctly different business needs and processes. In many cases, they may have different unions or other agreements that are unique to their specific agency. If your state, city or county has centralized or decentralized human resources, payroll and/or finance will also have a direct impact on how you approach a new solution or project.

Second, do not assume that your software vendor truly understands how to successfully deliver in the public sector. It’s important to ask vendors some clarifying questions before committing to any agreements:

  • Do they have experience implementing in the public sector?
  • Do they have references that you can talk to?
  • Do they have subject matter experts who understand the unique challenges that come with implementations in the public sector?

When making the decision to procure a new human capital management solution there are some steps that you can take ahead of time to help prepare you:

  • If possible, review your business processes and policies ahead of issuing the RFP, but before you begin your implementation. Doing that work ahead of time will save lots of headaches down the road. Some reasons for doing this are:
    • There may be policies and processes that are being used in various agencies that do not align with centralized processes.
    • If you need to change policies, you will need time to go through the process of making those changes. Generally, this is not something that can be done quickly, and you would not want your project delayed as a result.
    • You do not want to replicate bad processes or manual processes in your new solution. This is a great opportunity to make changes that will benefit the organization.
  • Identify any blackout dates that will have an impact on your project. This could include things such as events, vacations, competing projects, etc. By identifying these up front, they can be incorporated into your project plan and not create unexpected delays.
  • Who can help you handle the change management? Identify your change champions in the various agencies that will be impacted by the change. Make sure they’re looped in, and the process will go much more smoothly.
  • Begin thinking about your training strategy. This includes things like:
    • Where will the training be held? Rooms are hard to come by in the public sector, so planning will ensure that you have the proper facilities to deliver your training.
    • Who will help deliver the training? Is it the trainer?
    • Can you utilize interns to help you with your training?
  • Develop a communication strategy. The more communication, the better. With changes such as this it is important to communicate as much information as you can. This will also assist with the change management strategy.
  • Create a Steering Committee with representation from the various stakeholders.
  • Establish executive sponsorship. Many times, executive sponsors may be involved during the procurement process, but not throughout the implementation. It is important to establish who has the authority to approve changes or to assist when there is a disagreement.

I am hopeful that these tidbits will help you as you plan your next project. There are clearly many more items that should be a part of your list, but focusing on some of the basics will give you a solid foundation from which to build your own project/implementation checklist.

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