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Enterprise application deployment: The personal touch

Enterprise application deployments are not about software, but about people. Learn why it is the people involved at all levels who determine a deployed application's success or failure.

Enterprise application deployments are not, as is commonly assumed, about software. Certainly, software plays a part in the deployment of an application across the enterprise, but the major component of any enterprise application deployment is really about the people who are expected to use that software. Lose sight of this, at any phase, in any software implementation and you have little or no chance of success.

Applications are deployed in organizations all over the world every day. The best application deployments occur when the implementation makes sound business sense. On a personal level, people within an organization must understand the reasons for the deployment and how it will affect their professional situations. If they have this understanding and see the benefits they will incur, there is a better opportunity for the organization to realize a higher return on their investment.

The success of an expensive investment in an application for the purpose of enhancing workforce productivity (WP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), or enterprise resource planning (ERP) is dependent on the professionals who work on the deployment and the people for whom the application is intended. Their understanding, commitment, adoption, and focus are key.

A successful application deployment requires support from people within the highest levels of an organization. It also requires support from the professionals working on the application deployment and from the professionals, both inside and outside the organization, who will use the application.

Organizations must provide clear, concise, and appropriate information to all employees who will use the application and must make education and training available to everyone, inside and outside the organization, who will be affected by the deployment.

The hundreds of articles, papers, and books about application deployment that are available emphasize a number of common themes that can help you achieve a positive return on your investment. Factors that make for successful deployments include executive level buy-in, project planning, business need, change management, definition of metrics and success criteria, core project team, integration considerations, and selection criteria.

Surprisingly, some lists of success factors do not include the communication and marketing of the application deployment to the organization or the training of the employees and other professionals - the human factors also known as "the personal touch."

Successful application deployments require a variety of forms of communication. The design and implementation of a technology-driven collaboration model at the beginning of an application deployment determines the structure of the entire deployment.

An organization's culture is affected by change. Communicating with your organization continuously is a way to gain acceptance for that change through an open and ongoing transfer of information.

Change management preparation includes considering how business processes will be affected by the new application. Planning for user training involves identifying who needs to know what about the new application and when they need to know it. Arranging for ongoing support consists of considering what types of performance support users will need after their initial training.

One measure that has proven successful is to use online meetings to bring geographically dispersed stakeholders into early planning discussions for these areas to ensure stakeholders' involvement in the project and to generate stakeholder buy in.

Management should ask itself: how will this new application change the way users do their day to day work? Successful application deployment depends heavily on end user and business unit acceptance of the new application. Therefore, an effective change management team must plan accordingly. The change management team needs to communicate constantly to determine how business processes will be affected by the new system and to develop a plan for migrating those processes to the new system. Failure to identify affected business processes and to prepare migration plans for business processes can delay the deployment schedule and hinder the deployment team's productivity.

Human factors must be a major consideration of any application deployment. The critical nature of management and employee involvement throughout the application deployment process must serve as a benchmark against which the success of the deployment is measured. If people are not adequately informed, not properly trained, or do not feel part of the process in changing from one way of doing business to another, there is a great chance the deployment will not yield the significant results expected.

As you purchase, deploy, and propagate any application within an organization, whether for the purpose of enhancing workforce productivity (WP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), or enterprise resource planning (ERP), remember the human factors that can make or break the success of your initiative.

The investment you make in ensuring ongoing communication and appropriate training will yield a better understanding, commitment, adoption, and focus from those you depend on to use the application deployed.

When people are comfortable with the change brought about by an enterprise application deployment there is a greater likelihood that people will actually use it. Your ability to communicate, to reach out to your audience through the deployment of an enterprise application on an ongoing basis will maximize the results expected from your investment. The use of online live virtual technology for collaboration and communication can help you reach out to them.

If you build it they won't come unless they embrace it.

In the final analysis, it is the people involved at all levels who determine a deployed application's success or failure. Enterprise application deployments are not about software, but about people.

Amy Finn, Ph.D.

About the author: Amy Finn, Ph.D. VP, Education and Chief Learning Officer
Centra Software, Inc.
As Vice President of Education and Chief Learning Officer, Amy Finn is responsible for the process of managing and expanding the intellectual capital of Centra. She also works with Centra's Education and Training team to develop programs that help Centra customers make the most of their online collaboration investments by focusing on action plans to help align learning strategy with business goals.

Finn has a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and BA degrees in Bacteriology and English from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a co-author of Centra's textbook guide "Fast Path to Success With Centra: Best Practices, Tips and Techniques in Live eLearning."

This was last published in April 2005

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