All businesses need software applications to run their company — accounting, customer relationship management, sales force automation are just a few. As a rule, tremendous resources of time, money and energy are invested into securing and implementing these business management software applications. How frustrating then, to forfeit this investment when the implementation is not completed, does not deliver what you anticipated, is over budget — in other words — fails.

For a successful software implementation, there are three areas to carefully examine: education, executive buy-in and budget.

The biggest problem is not understanding what the new system is designed to achieve. Before selecting a solution, explore and study your company to see exactly what it is that you need from the system. Is accounting the primary requirement? How do you track your inventory? Is it important to track customer information? How does your company process an order? Of course your business process may be more difficult than the examples, but this sets the stage educating your team. After the basics are identified, study the prospective applications under consideration. What hardware requirements are needed? Is the system integrated or modular?

After choosing a solution — get educated. Be sure all key users, department heads become fluent in the use of it and have them train the users in their department. Require that your company “take ownership” of the tool — learn enough to independently manage the basics it without seeking outside support.

Executive Buy-In
Often, company executives are interested in securing the right solution, but just to a certain point. C-Level executive should remain engaged throughout the selection process and continue to see it through final implementation. If the directors of the company have become well educated on how the tool impact business processes, reporting and other essentials for efficiency — they will then be prepared to “champion” those working with them.

Also, executives need to be prepared to re-design business processes to effectively take advantage of the new system functionality. Business management packages today operate differently than traditional, older software. Functionality is integrated, redundant data entry is eliminated — hence changing the way work is done.

Create a budget that is realistically aligned with the goals. Thoroughly research all costs associated with the engagement up front. A few requirements to consider if needed: hiring technical staff to manage the system, hardware updates, staff training, support or maintenance fees imposed by vendor.

Unforeseen implementation costs can be avoided by properly having a needs analysis/process review done before the software is purchased. Leadership should be active in a needs analysis to avoid surprises later. Today’s business software impacts more users in the company — contact management, sales force automation, a web presence — it’s not just accounting anymore! Be sure you are utilizing 100% of your investment by involving all affected from the beginning.

Rufus Lohmueller, president of Lohmueller, a business solutions management consulting firm, has completed hundreds of business management software implementations during his 18-year career in this industry. He can be reached at