By Phillipa Cross
In a previous blog post, we discussed the mistakes to avoid during a NetSuite implementation project.
In the article, we expanded on common failures such as not completing a thorough data cleanse, communication breakdowns with clients, and ignoring the need to bolster your team with other highly skilled NetSuite professionals.
Most professionals will experience mistakes that crop up during their career, but in retrospect, wouldn’t it be great to be able to spot the early signs of an issue brewing before it derails a project?
In our latest NetSuite market trends report, we discovered that 43% of respondents experienced a delay during their NetSuite implementation project, with contributing factors including postponement, poor planning before migration, unforeseen customizations, and data migration issues.
As an industry professional, how do you avoid these stumbling blocks during a NetSuite project? We asked the experts, and often, the trail led back to a breakdown in communication between client and partner.
To ensure your project is a success as a NetSuite partner, you’ll need to get inside the client’s head to decode what they really want and successfully provide them an end product that meets all their requirements.
Richard Dip, Manager of Application Development at ERP Buddies Inc:
“When viewing the full scope of an implementation for a client, I find success hinges on understanding the client’s business process and transparency with any challenges, pain points, or potential roadblocks.”
This can be easier said than done because let’s face it, clients can be temperamental and slightly flakey – especially if they’re higher up in the company. Ensure upper management is involved in your NetSuite implementation
You’re probably thinking, why is this important? Surely, there is someone further down the company that has enough authority and drive to see the project through.
Well yes, there will usually be an assigned IT project manager to oversee the implementation; however, their input will be instructed from above, meaning the authority of their decision making will only go so far.
The people you need to be addressing are members of the organization’s C-Suite. Ideally, their Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), or Chief Data Officer (CDO); however, if the company doesn’t have a CIO, CTO, or CDO, then ensure their CEO or CFO are present throughout the project.
We asked our CIO and CFO for their opinion on the matter:
Mark Hill, Chief Information Officer at Anderson Frank
“During a business change, it is imperative you have formal communications and different mechanisms. In our company, we involved many different medium types, including regular one-to-one, group cohort messages from the very top-down, as well as regular branded email communication around what’s going to be delivered, what the expectations are, and when.
“I personally remain very close to the project through inception, strategic conception, the commercial negotiation and then the ongoing deliverable. This was a very key strategic project for our company and I wanted to ensure success through that period.”
Lewis Miller, Chief Financial Officer at Anderson Frank
“The information needed will often differ from project to project, so the key to getting the CFO buy-in is to involve them right up front when this is an initial concept.
“I have seen too often people treating finance as the final hurdle; the people you come to for the rubber stamp at the end of the process. If this is the first time you have engaged the CFO then you have significantly increased your chances of not getting the outcome you are after.”
We asked the experts at ERP Buddies and they recounted how not involving C-Suite affected their project and how they resolved it.
“Rob Welk, NetSuite Senior Project Manager at ERP Buddies Inc.
“The project seemed to get off to a great start, all requirements from the business process owners were documented, configuration, design, and budget were all on schedule. But, something had been missed that was about to stop the project dead in its tracks, and throw off all timelines and budgets we had planned for.
“The CFO, who had been generally quiet, kept an arm’s length distance from any conversations about design and configuration. This is typical in an implementation, where someone who has invaluable input is just too busy to get involved, and he felt they could all accurately describe what was required, but the team either lacked vision or were possibly too scared to voice it.
When it came to the end of the project, Rob, his team and the client realized they had gone about the project all wrong.
“As configuration and design came to an end, on schedule and budget, we were ready for the walkthrough. At this point, the CFO started to get involved and asking questions about what we thought about their current processes, something no one else thought to ask us.
“When we began to discuss what could be done vs what we had created, he quickly realized he had gone about the project all wrong. He began to change his notion of what a successful implementation was to him and started working with everyone to analyze how they could use the NetSuite software to increase productivity in the business.”
“Rob and his team learned a great lesson through this project, If the person with the authority insists on keeping a distance, you need to find a way to keep them engaged. If you find they’re struggling to understand your concerns or vision for the project, then you need to find a way to translate the issue in terms that they will understand; Rob recommends finding an employee that the decision-maker will listen to and have them help explain your vision for the company.
“You need to make them aware of the entire project so they can make a sound judgment on how to proceed. Otherwise, in the end, you will find yourself over budget, behind schedule, and will likely have to go back and start again.” Rob Welk
Though having a NetSuite team that’s technically adept is essential during implementation, it’s vital not to forget about the role that soft skills can play during a project.
Non-technical skills, like communication, have a huge role in achieving a successful outcome. Your client will rely on you to translate their business requirements into technical solutions. Likewise, your team members need to fully understand the commercial needs of the client so they can create the right NetSuite solution.
To build a genuine rapport with your client, you need someone on your team with an excellent communication skillset: someone who can help you gain better feedback from the client and determine the best way to approach each crucial milestone throughout to accomplish a successful NetSuite implementation project.
“The questions you ask the client should be as strong as the answers you seek. Having thorough, technical business understanding establishes trust in the client that you are a fully trained expert with technical knowledge that can break down complex limitations and processes within the system as if you are configuring to a layperson.
“The takeaway is this – there are no implementations without challenges and roadblocks. By clearing the fog, one can foreseeably plan for a new course of action.“ Richard Dip
An implementation project can only be as successful as the team running it. If you feel that your team lacks experience in an area—particularly when it comes to conversing with clients—then we recommend expanding your team on a semi-permanent basis by adding in other NetSuite professionals.
The benefit of opening up your team to other professionals is that you can then leverage additional resources, provide more specialized skillsets for your client during the project, learn new methodologies and practices from other experts in the industry, and finally, open you up to other NetSuite implementation projects in the future.
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