Act! Chronicles – Collaborate on CRM Contacts without the Cloud

ACT! Server Network Multi-User SyncOne of the key reasons why businesses rush to the Cloud is to enable users to access content from anywhere there is an Internet connection.  This is beneficial when users are highly mobile or there are multiple work and office locations.  The drawback is that without an Internet connection, work and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) come to a complete halt.

If you do have multiple people in your office that need to collaborate and share a centralized, institutional customer relationship system, ACT! Premium 2013 can be installed on your own company server and shared with everyone in your Office.  In fact, even if you have users who work from home or in another State, as long as they periodically have access to the Internet, all of the information in the master company version of ACT! Premium 2013 can be synchronized with the remote user (any user who is off-site and not in the Office) so that everyone always has the most current information about a contact.

For users in the Office, any updates to a Contact record are immediate and in real time.  ACT! Premium 2013 supports field level locking so if two different users are in the same contact record, only one user will be able to edit a field (like the phone number) at a time.  All users can make updates regardless of if they are in or out of the Office.   ACT! Premium 2013 will review all of the changes by each user and make sure the latest ones are kept.

[Note:  A certain amount of common sense is required here.  Two different users can update “notes” on the same contact and both sets of updates will be kept.  However, if two users change the “office phone number” in the same contact record, the change completed at the latest time will be the one reflected.   For example, if a user in the Office changes the phone number of a contact at 1pm, and then another user who is out of the Office and working off-site (perhaps at a client) changes the phone number in that same contact record at 1:15pm, the latest change, the one at 1:15pm will be the phone number in that contact record.  The earlier change at 1pm will be overwritten.]

The key advantage of ACT! Premium 2013 as a Customer Relationship Management solution is that it enables you to remain 100% productive regardless of if you in the office and connected to your company server or if you are on the road and working from the beach between meetings.   Whenever Internet access is available, ACT! Premium 2013 will automatically synchronize updates between your Mobile Warriors and the Office.

In real life, “Clouds” come and go. With ACT! Premium 2013, it is always a clear Blue Sky.

For more information on ACT! Premium 2013, leave me a comment or visit:
http://act.com/products/act-premium/

Act! Chronicles – Keeping your Contacts out of the Cloud

Sage ACT Premium 2013 BoxAre you frustrated with Cloud based contact management solutions that are only accessible when you have Internet Access?  Are you concerned that one day you will receive an apologetic notice from your Cloud Hosted Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Address Book Vendor telling you that your password and some amount of personal information may have been compromised which would mean that all of your client data and notes are now potentially “out there?”

Do you wish there were some Application you could run locally on your computer so that your contact address book information would be available at all times – even when you had no access to the Internet?  An Application that would allow you to maintain not just a contact’s basic address information, phone, and email but also maintain a complete history of all communication with that contact?  What about if it could keep track of the status of the sales cycle and show all of the other related contacts?  How about if you could collaborate and share Contact information across your company so that everyone had the same “Institutional Knowledge” about a Client?

Let me introduce you to ACT! Premium 2013 by Swiftpage, a Windows Application that enables you to do all of the above and so much more.  (Note: If you are a Mac user, keep reading about the features. A future article will discuss how to run ACT! Premium on a Mac in a Virtual Windows Machine using Parallels Desktop.)

ACT! Premium 2013 is a full featured, contact and customer relationship manager (CRM) that supports pipeline selling, full history of communication, tasks, notes, history, appointments, calendar scheduling, contact status, mail merge, reporting and social media.

What makes ACT! Premium different from SalesForce and SugarCRM, (the two most popular Cloud based CRM platforms), is that unlike Cloud based services, your contacts are 100% safe and secure on your on PC or your own company file server and accessible with or without Internet Access.

That means the next time you have a five hour plane trip from NY to LA, you can be actively working on your sales and marketing efforts by reviewing the current status of your proposals, projects, and campaigns.  You can draft letters, create email messages and mail-merge personalized email or letter campaigns, schedule meetings, tasks, analyze reports and look for cross-sell opportunities.  All of this and more simply because ACT! Premium 2013 is installed locally, on your notebook (or PC) and accessible regardless of the availability of an Internet connection.

Put the “personal” back in “personal computing” and say, “Goodbye Cloud” and Hello to the personal computer completely under your control.

For more information on ACT! Premium 2013, leave me a comment or visit:
http://act.com/products/act-premium/

Note:  ACT! is available in a Pro version but to get the full benefits that I will be discussing in my “ACT! Chronicles” Series, the Premium version is required particularly for the Web and Mobile features.  The Pro version may be appropriate if you will be the only user and do not have a need to share your contacts with anyone else or access your contacts from the Web or a Mobile Device.  This would be true if you always carry your notebook computer with you wherever you go.

Quickbooks & The Hartford Pay-as-you-Go Workers Compensation

The HartfordWhen Quickbooks Payroll by Intuit partnered up with The Hartford to offer “Pay- as-you-Go” Workers Compensation Policies, I decided to investigate.

If you use Quickbooks Full Service Payroll, which is a comprehensive service that includes direct deposit of employee paychecks, automatic preparation of payroll tax forms and payment of taxes, with The Hartford, you can pay your Workers Compensation with each pay period.

If you use Basic (Paycheck Calculations Only) or Enhanced Payroll (Paychecks and Tax Form Preparation) you can still use The Hartford, but you have to make the periodic Workers Compensation payment directly through The Hartford web site. It is not an automatic deduction.   This is still a better option than having to make one big Workers Compensation payment each year on the anniversary date of your policy.  (As of this writing, Disability Policies at The Hartford are not available on the “Pay-as-you-Go” billing platform and must be paid in full annually.)

I contacted The Hartford and was able to obtain quotes almost immediately.  For Workers Compensation, the annual premium was a significant savings.  For Disability, the annual premium was higher but the combination of the two policies was still a savings.  When I asked my commercial insurance broker his opinion of The Hartford, he had only good things to say.  Specifically he mentioned that their customer service is very responsive and that they pay their claims in a timely manner.

True to form, I had a number of questions for The Hartford about the quotes presented and they were extremely responsive.  This included their ability to put the new policies in place almost immediately should I decide to proceed.  However, if you read my last post, “Leaving NYSIF – New York State Insurance Fund – Not So Easy”, it was all for naught as I was unable to exit my NYSIF policies.  [I will be looking at The Hartford again and perhaps some other Carriers as my NYSIF renewal date approaches.]

Important Safety Tip:  Absolutely check with your current Workers Compensation and Disability Insurance Carriers to determine your ability to cancel your policy and leave prior to term BEFORE you obtain quotes or complete any applications.  It will just save you a great deal of time and aggravation. Penalties for early departure can be severe.

NOTE:  The degree to which you can actually “Pay-as-you-Go” with The Hartford will vary with the specific Quickbooks Payroll Service you have selected and the amount of your policy premiums.  In the case of some Policies, the Premium may be so small that it makes more sense, or the only option may be, to pay annually.

More Information on The Hartford at:
http://www.thehartford.com/worker-compensation

More Information on Intuit Payroll at:
http://payroll.intuit.com

 

Disclaimer:  The information presented above is my personal experience and current as of the date of this article posting as it applied to my specific situation.  I am a licensed Certified Financial Planner and Certified Public Accountant (licensed in the State of New York.)  I am not licensed to sell or represent any insurance product in any State.  Insurance Carrier rules and regulations vary by State and change frequently.  You must check with your own Agent, Broker, or Insurance Carrier directly to verify the information as it may apply to your specific situation.

Leaving NYSIF – New York State Insurance Fund – Not So Easy

NYSIF - New York State Insurance FundMy Workers Compensation and Disability Policies are with NYSIF – The New York State Insurance Fund.  Early on, I was single shareholder corporation with no employees and therefore was able to exclude myself from the Workers Compensation Policy.  In the Insurance Industry, this is known as a “Ghost Policy.”  New York State absolutely requires that any business that has a payroll, with or without eligible employees, must have both a Workers Compensation and Disability Policy in place.

At the time, on the advice of my commercial insurance broker, he directed me to NYSIF because they would have the least expensive policy premium minimums.  Since I had no employees to cover, things like customer service and claims were non issues.  I just needed the policies in place to comply with the regulations.  For the most part, if you are in this situation, with no eligible employees and exclude yourself as the single (or no more than two) person shareholder company, NYSIF is a good option for New York State Workers Compensation and Disability coverage.

I was investigating switching Carriers just after my policy had renewed, July 1st.

What I learned was that terminating coverage at NYSIF at any other time than approximately 45 days prior to the policy renewal date comes with extreme prejudice.  NYSIF enforces a 30 Day written cancellation notice as purportedly mandated by New York State Law.

Furthermore, NYSIF enforces something called a “Short Rate” penalty for policies canceled prior to the end date.  In the case of my Disability Policy the penalty was 100% of the paid premium because I was at the policy premium minimum.  For my Workers Compensation policy the NYSIF underwriter would not provide the penalty amount.  He simply stated the penalty would be “severe.”

Be advised that if you have a NYSIF – New York State Insurance Fund Workers Compensation and Disability Policy and want to change Insurance Carriers, you must plan to do so approximately 45 days prior to the end date of your policy.  This will allow you time to get quotes from alternate Carriers and provide the proper 30 Day written notice to NYSIF that you intend to cancel your policy and move your coverage.

Should you decide to terminate your policy with NYSIF, you must send the notice in writing on Company Letterhead at least 30 days prior to the renewal date of the policy.  The letter must include the following information:  Policy Name and Current Address; Policy Number; Reason for Cancellation; Effective Date of Cancellation; Policyholder’s signature; Current Telephone Number.

In the case of the Disability Policy you can send a signed scanned copy of this document via email or fax. However, the Workers Compensation cancellation document will only be accepted via U.S. Mail and NYSIF will look to either the date requested on your letter or “30 Days from the Postmark” whichever is later as the effective date of the cancellation regardless of your intended date.  (Contact NYSIF Customer Service directly to obtain the current contact information for where to send the cancellation letter(s).)

Disclaimer:  The information presented above is my personal experience and current as of the date of this article posting as it applied to my specific situation.  I am a licensed Certified Financial Planner and Certified Public Accountant (licensed in the State of New York.)  I am not licensed to sell or represent any insurance product in any State.  Insurance Carrier rules and regulations vary by State and change frequently.  You must check with your own Agent, Broker, or Insurance Carrier directly to verify the information as it may apply to your specific situation.

The Security Value Context – Data vs. Information

101010All Information is comprised of Data but not all Data leads to useful Information.

Data should be protected where possible but it is Information that needs to be actively secured.

The Security Value Context is the degree to which Data or Information needs to be protected and secured based entirely on the context of how it is organized and how it will be used.

Let me explain:  If I have a Tax Preparation Business with thousands of individual client returns, considered Data, no one specific return is particularly interesting (unless perhaps the return belongs to a Public figure, then it becomes Information.)  In fact, if I published one random Tax Return, (say Mitt En), on a Billboard in Times Square (without the Social Security Number), chances are no one would give it a second glance.  Even if someone knew Mitt En, there is little practical value to the Data presented on the Tax Return.  Big deal, the world now knows how much “Mitt” took home last year.  The point being made here is that this Tax Return is just random Data.  Unless someone is specifically interested in Mitt, and most people are not interested in Mitt, there is extremely limited security value risk to Mitt in the public exposure of his Tax Return.  In short, the scope of the Context is singularly “Mitt” himself.  No one else really cares.

(For the moment, I am excluding the possibility of Identity Theft from this discussion.)

On the other hand, if this is the Tax Return of Mitt Romney instead of our average individual Mitt En, what a moment ago was random unimportant Data now becomes specifically useful Information.  The Tax Return will most likely list all of the Charitable Donations that Mitt Romney has made.  This Information will imply the causes that he supports which in turn may suggest the types of Policies he will try to legislate based on his beliefs and values.  This has a very high security value risk and therefore needs to be actively secured.  The scope of the Context is huge.  The majority of the voting population of the United States cares.

If I take the thousands of individual client returns and start to analyze and segregate them based on factors like income, mortgage interest paid, charitable donations, type of employment, dependents, or any other element, I have taken the raw disorganized Data and turned it in to incredibly valuable Information.

Used in a good way, the Internal Revenue Service aggregates the Data from Filed Tax Returns in just this manner to present anonymous profile statistics about the American Tax Payer.  This provides valuable information that Congress can use to manage Tax Policy.  Since the Data is presented in anonymous, aggregate format, there is a very low security value risk to any one individual return.

Used in a bad way, an unscrupulous person could use the identifiable Data that created this incredibly useful Information against specific groups of individuals for nefarious purposes.   For example, groups of individuals that have high mortgage interest deductions might become the target of predatory refinancing lenders.  Since each person can be identified, there is a very high security value risk.

It is impossible to know exactly how raw “Data” will be organized or its’ eventual value in producing Information which is why it is important to take appropriate action to protect it.  For example, we manage user access with Password protected Software Applications and we encrypt the files to keep the Data as secure as practicable away from unauthorized access.

Conversely, we know exactly how “Data” can instantly become valuable “Information” which is why we go to such great lengths to actively secure it in its final form.  We know that a Tax Return contains a Social Security Number, Birth Date, and the full legal name and address of an individual.  In the wrong hands, like that of an Identity thief, the information on a Tax Return contains everything necessary to steal the Taxpayers identity and create financial chaos.

Actively securing access to valuable Information, like a Tax Return, requires more than a Password.  It requires a policy that explicitly defines how the Information will be stored or transmitted and who will have access to it.

The simplest analogy to the difference in managing “Data” security vs. “Information” security is to think of “Data” as a Credit Card and “Information” as Cash.

With a Credit Card, if a fraudulent transaction is discovered, it can be reversed, the Card cancelled and your perfect credit score remains intact.  Data stored on your computer works pretty much the same way:  If a file becomes corrupted or damaged, that one data element can usually be isolated or fixed with minimal risk to the remainder of the data.  It is one random element among many.

With Cash, if you lose it or it is stolen, it is completely gone with zero recourse.  With valuable Information, like a Tax Return in the wrong hands, you can never get it back.  The person’s identity may be stolen along with the creation of a financial mess that may take months to clean up.

Determining the Security Value Context of Data vs. Information requires an understanding of how each will be stored, accessed, and presented.

One person’s Data is another person’s Information.

Business Process Consulting – The Never Ending Development Event Horizon

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”  In the same manner, Projects and System Implementations occur in phases that are subject to available staff resources, the seasonal workload, and budgetary constraints.  Any of these issues can affect the event timeline to completion.  The more granular the tasks and milestones, the lesser the impact of any one issue.  It is expected that some delay will be introduced because of the number of people involved or because of unforeseen circumstances.

The Never Ending Development Event Horizon refers to what I call the Breeder Reactor Effect:  As Staff start to use the System, new efficiencies in processes will occur.  The System will introduce a new set of resources for the Staff to use in completely new processes.  This will lead to the Evolutionary effect on the Business Process culminating in the realization of “I could never do that before” coupled with “I wonder if we can to this, too?”

As Staff start to discover and utilize the new capabilities, Staff will come up with brand new ways to continue to expand and extend the System.  Each of these will create a new Project Event.  Hence, the System is never truly finished as there will be constant improvements and enhancements.

For example, until the Smartphone was invented, it was not common to be able to send email unless you were at a computer physically attached to the Internet.  So the ability to send email using the cellular data network was the planned feature of the Smartphone ecosystem. (Think Blackberry.)  Then someone noticed that the Smartphone had a built in GPS (Global Positioning System) and developed a mapping and “directions” application.  A completely new use that was never possible before the introduction of the GPS capability in the phone.  One need only look at the Google Android and Apple IOS iPhone Smartphone operating systems to see that hundreds of thousands of new uses and applications have been developed proving my point of the “Never Ending Development Event Horizon.”

Projects and System Implementations take on an organic nature and continue to grow and evolve over time.  If properly managed, they are constantly refined and enhanced so they never truly end their development life-cycle.

Business Process Consulting – Utilizing People Resources Effectively

Team EffortNothing is more of a mystery to me than the relationship between Management and Staff.  It absolutely amazes me how Management and Staff will verbalize their criticism of each other among themselves but not to each other – at least not intentionally.  The most interesting part is the view that either Management or Staff are incompetent, cannot be trained, and will not change.  Building on a prior theme, I pose the question: “Is this perception or reality?”

My response to this dysfunctional environment, which I encounter more often than not, is to eliminate the Managerial preconceived notions of Staff capabilities by demonstrating their inherent abilities and value to the Project.

Fact:  Everyone is doing their job at some level or they would be fired.

Fact:  These are the Staff resources available for this project.

Management’s impression of Staff should not automatically be my impression of Staff.

When questioned about my “Get it done” attitude, I like to use this example:  “I am behind enemy lines with this crew.  Safety is twenty miles away through hostile territory.  This is what I have to work with.”  I will improvise adapt, and overcome – just like the US Marines.

Everybody has some level of talent, skill, and creativity.  Everyone likes to feel like they are part of the process and that their opinion and efforts are valued.  This is where Management mostly fails.  It is what I call “Managerial Insanity” – working with Staff the same way, day in and day out, and expecting a different result.  Management rarely wants input from Staff and certainly does not want to hear from Staff about how Management could do their job better.

As the Consultant, the key is to engage the Staff as part of the process which then motivates them in to action.  The easiest way to get Staff involved and excited is to ask, “What is the problem (we are trying to solve) and how would you do it differently?”  Even if the Staff are not creative thinkers, recognizing each person’s capabilities and using them within the limit of their abilities is perfectly fine – and gets the job done.

My Dad and I used to have deep discussions about people’s abilities.  He always said that if the Student did not learn or could not perform the task, it was the Teacher’s fault. (You can substitute Staff for Student and Management for Teacher.)  I always said, that there is a reason the Peter Principle exists, “Everyone rises to his level of incompetency.”  Not everyone is infinitely capable.  Understanding this fine line between the likelihood of being able to effect immediate change in the level of Staff capabilities (not very practical) vs. utilizing the current abilities of Staff to their maximum potential is the entire key to success and what I specifically try to do.

Unlike Management, the Consultant should be able to take inventory of the available skill sets of Staff and use them appropriately thereby maximizing all of the resources available to complete the Project.

With rare exception, every Staff person has something to contribute.

Recognizing that all people have value is critical to utilizing all Managerial and Staff resources effectively.

Business Process Consulting – Reviewing the Inputs and Outputs

In Out ArrowsWhen performing a Business Process Review, think of the Software System as a Black Box.  There are usually a number of similar software products from multiple vendors available to resolve most operational problems.  The specific vendor is not necessarily a factor as most offer comparable levels of service and support and are competitively priced.

The most important issue to consider is the usability of the system.

Considerations regarding the User Interface include:  Are the screens in a modern Graphical form or are they more “Green Screen” Text Entry like?  Are keyboard shortcuts available or must everything be done with the mouse?  Are there Macros available for repetitive keystroke sequences?  Will the software pre-fill fields with default information based on data entered in preceding fields?   (If I enter in a Utility Bill, will the system pre-fill the remainder of the form by recalling the prior months’ transaction?)  How many mouse clicks are required to perform various tasks?  If frequent lookups are performed, what fields support lookup and which fields are indexed?  Does the system support lookup by both Customer Name and Customer Number?  Can you do a lookup/search in any field?

The ability to navigate the data entry screens quickly and efficiently is absolutely critical to productivity.  Every time the user has to take his or her hands off the keyboard to reach for the mouse, time is lost.  There needs to be a proper use of real estate on the screen balancing the number of fields presented vs. layout and readability.  Confusing and crowded screens lead to data entry errors.

When searching for data, does the program use a “Word Wheel” so that as letters are entered, the lookup field starts to populate with possible choices?  (This is similar to auto-fill when typing in to a Google Search box.  As you type, Google makes suggestions.)

The most important aspect of Search:  Does the software program organize the information in a manner similar to the process that it is designed to automate or replace?  Many Companies organize records by Customer Account Name.  Some software systems only support lookup on a Customer Number.  If the software does not support searching by Customer Name, then it is not the right software package for our process.  We want a software system that adapts to our way of data organization and not the other way around.  Even if we need to create Customer Numbers for other purposes, the system should work the way we work.

It is easy to define the Inputs and Outputs.

We need only look at our Source Documents – Phone Orders, Order Forms, Bills, Payments, Customer Service Registration Information, Sales Leads, etc. to determine what it is our new software system needs to accommodate for the Inputs.  Then, for the Outputs, we look at every Report and Document created or printed – Financial Reports, Checks, Packing Lists, Statements, Invoices, etc. (and any manual processes to get our Report Data.)  A Review of the Operational Analysis will tell us what “wish list” Data and Reports are missing.

The key to a successful software selection and implementation is for each Department to define their ideal set of inputs (source data) and outputs (reports) and to make sure they are accounted for in the new system.

Since the desired Outputs represent a definite, tangible milestone for sign-off and acceptance, a positive outcome is virtually guaranteed.

Business Process Consulting – Mainstreaming Exceptions

No ExceptionsFrequently when performing a Business Process Review I see that I am documenting multiple, recurring exceptions.  In speaking with the employees I am told, “This is an exception because our present system does not allow me to do this process without…” and then they proceed to tell me all of the additional steps required to accomplish the task.

If everything is an exception, it becomes the norm and needs to be included in the new system.

Exceptions are really just shortcomings in current processes that do not allow for the required procedure.  In some cases, exceptions are the result of not being aware of current system capabilities.  Or, there may be new enhancements and features included in a recent system update that have not been communicated to the Staff.

Another exception is the  frequent creation of Data Exports and Spreadsheets due to failures on the Reporting capabilities of the current system.

Data exports should only be created if they pass data to another system for additional processing.  For example:  After processing orders, a Data Export of Shipping Address information might be passed directly to a UPS/FedEx manifest system to create shipping labels or way-bills.

Spreadsheets should only be created for unique customized analysis events like litigation support or specialized one-time financial reports.  If system data is frequently exported to a Spreadsheet for further analysis or customized reporting, those reports should become standard reports in the new system.

Exporting data either for transfer to another software program or to a Spreadsheet has the potential to destabilize the integrity of the data.  While the data is in the system, it is 100% standardized.  Formulas are set and calculations have been tested for accuracy.  Once the data leaves the system and is placed in a Spreadsheet, Formula and Calculation errors can creep in.  A row or column of data can be left out of one of the formulas or can be accidentally deleted entirely throwing off the accuracy of the result.  (Where possible, rather than exporting data out and importing data in to another system, a real-time link should be created between the two systems so that data integrity is properly maintained.)

The most detrimental aspects of exporting data are that it localizes the analysis and reporting process to one individual or team and it may be difficult to reproduce the output/result with certainty by another individual or team due to lack of proper documentation. Once the data leaves the original system, it immediately becomes stale and out-of-date.  Any change to the original data will not be reflected in the analysis and reporting process unless a new data export is performed.

When reviewing the Business Process, watch for exceptions, document the shortcomings of the existing system which require the work-around reporting, and make sure they are provided for in the new system.

To put the concept of an exception in context:  We may think of something that has a “One in a Million Chance of Happening”  as being a rare exception.  However, something that has a one in a million chance of happening happens twenty times day at McDonald’s based on the volume of customers served.  Twenty of something happening means that it can be identified and accounted for in the design and implementation of the new system.

The goal of good system design is to standardize any repetitive tasks so that predictable, consistent results can be obtained every time.

Business Process Consulting – Managing Expectations and Defining Goals

Perception vs. RealityManaging expectations and defining the goals of a Business Process Review with the intention of implementing a new system implementation is easy if you can separate perception from reality.  Although Management and Staff must each give their own impressions and expectations of the current system as a starting point, this must be translated to tangible deliverables and goals.

Many times someone will vent, “The system we use is absolutely terrible”, (perception), when on closer questioning, (reality) “I cannot get one type of report”, is the specific issue that caused the blanket statement.  It is easy for people to make gross generalizations.  It requires digging and careful questioning to get to the root cause of the generalization and determine the specific issues – good or bad.

The mission is to line up impressions and issues in the current system against expectations and actual deliverables in the new system.

The easiest way to manage the implied expectations and define the Goals of the new system is to define the outputs, for example in these systems, the goals are fairly clear:

  • Phone System – Can I answer and make telephone call?
  • Accounting System – Can I produce a full set of Financial Statements
  • Inventory Control – Do I have real-time stock visibility?
  • Point of Sale – Do all items scan with minimal key code entry for bar code errors?

An underlying requirement is that the Project must be fully funded.  Running out of money during an implementation or going over budget is a sure fire way to not meet Management’s expectations (on-time, on-budget implementation) and goals (a working system that meets the specification.)  During the Operational Analysis, the issues raised need to be prioritized and evaluated.  In some cases, the cost of a “perfect system” may be too high and certain solutions may be excluded from the new system.

The expectation and goal of any new system is that Management and Staff will be able to obtain the desired reporting from the data entered.  In short, if the new system has a space for all of the different types of inputs (i.e. Order Entry, Bills, Customer Service Records, Cash Receipts, etc.) and can generate all of the desired outputs and reporting, (i.e. Invoices, Financial Statements, Sales Reports, Checks, etc.) then usually both the expectations and goals will have been met.

By meeting with each Department and making sure that their current and desired reporting requirements are met in the new system, you will have met their expectations (hope) and goals (actual deliverable.)

The failure of many system implementations is the extreme disconnect between what Management and Staff perceived the New System could do vs. what the Vendor actually disclosed that it would do.

In a real world example, I was brought in as a System Implementation Consultant.  Contracts had been signed and significant payments were made to the Software Vendor prior to my arrival.  In reviewing Management’s expectations and specifications, I determined that the new software could not meet three of the critical requirements that the Vendor had given the perception of being able to do in the proposal.  In more direct terms:  The Vendor flat out lied about the capabilities of the Software.

This was not fully acknowledged by the Vendor until the “checks had been cashed” and the only recourse for the client was to move forward or commences legal action.  Not only did expectations have to be reset to a lower bar, but to work-around the issues, required tens of thousands of dollars of custom programming. (This caused an additional problem in that any future upgrades to the main system would require significant additional expense to upgrade the custom programming. The client could never install any new release without paying thousands in fees.)

Needless to say, this project was doomed from the start and only a marginal improvement over the existing previously, failed system implementation.

Make sure that the perceived capabilities of any new system line up with the realities of its’ actual capabilities.

If you properly align the expectation with the goal and reality with perception, the System Implementation Project will succeed.