LLP International’s implementation method is based on a series of sequential phases, but incorporates ‘agile’ elements during the system design and build phases.
Experience has shown that an iterative approach to requirements analysis and prototyping is best. In practice, understanding and communication of an organisation’s requirements often involves minor misunderstandings, even when well documented. We believe that system design must involve demonstrating to users what a system will really feel like to use.
Typical issues we have faced include:
- A long approval process for the system design phase delays all following phases
- There are many change request forms raised and fully developed set up is to be replaced
- During end-user training it becomes clear that the system does not meet their requirements
- Additional budget is required to cover these issues
An iterative design prototyping approach mitigates these risks.
SunSystems Implementation Method
LLP International’s method borrows from the ‘agile’ method used in system development, where assumptions and ideas are tested through a series of iterations. The relative ease of SunSystems configuration enables the rapid building of prototypes, so that clients can see the implications of system design for transaction entry, business processes, system management and reporting.
Throughout the implementation there is a gradual transfer of knowledge and ownership from LLP consultants to the Client project team until the members of the project team become the drivers and champions of the new system and business processes.
The following are the key phases of an implementation:
INITIATE: PROJECT START UP / IMPLEMENTATION PLANNING
This phase defines the project objectives, organisation and resources. The key deliverables are a Project Charter, Project Plan in MS Project, Training and Communication Plans; and installed software at the Customer site, ready for Business Pilot configuration. Risk assessment is also conducted at this stage and a Risk Plan is formulated. Central documentation storage is established at LLP SharePoint, where all project documents are stored and can be later edited on-line. Both Client’s representatives and LLP consultants have access to this site.
- Project Team Education
In this phase the Implementation Team undergoes intensive product training. The key deliverables are the establishment of a core knowledge base within the team and cross-functional understanding of SunSystems, which will facilitate decision making during the Business Pilots. In case of core system roll-outs, the LLP consultants present the Client’s core solution, and identify any gaps to be discussed during the Business Pilot phase.
- Business Pilots
The Business Pilots clarify operational flows and business requirements by modeling business processes using SunSystems. Operational issues are identified and resolved and any customisation requirements are identified. There are three Business Pilot Phases:
Initial Business Pilot – identifies issues, procedure requirements and potential customization requirements. The Initial Business Pilot contains the core functionality of the system, which are critical for go live. The initial set up should cover chart of accounts, currency conversion, main transactional analytical codes, journal types, sales and purchase types. Key reports are to be designed and developed in this phase.
Resolution Pilots – operational issues are resolved and business flows and policies are defined. In this phase new functionalities are incrementally added to the system. In this phase further analytical codes are added, journal types are fine-tuned, item lists, suppliers, customers created, reports developed, Vision import templates developed.
The agile process brings its own risks, the most obvious being ‘scope creep’ and it is essential that scope be well defined at the outset and modifications to scope be very well controlled. The requirement log has to be carefully analyzed and prioritized at this stage making sure that the expected go live date can be met. Least priority items for go live are rather to be postponed to Deployment phase than delaying planned go live.
Final Business Pilot – final pilot to confirm operating procedures, policies and understanding. Operator permissions and data access groups to be implemented.
The key deliverable from the business pilots is a fully tested and functional system.
The testing process is supported by a web based ticket-handling tool. Reported issues are directed to the responsible consultant. All communication, including supporting files, are stored in a central database. E-mail notifications are sent about updates and status changes to responsible team members and managers.
It is important to note that our implementation method requires frequent interaction between LLP Consultants and the Client’s key users. Both teams have to dedicate most of their time to the implementation, as set-up changes have to be implemented and tested at short intervals to make sure the pilot process does not grow beyond its original timeframe.
- Operating Procedures Development
This phase runs in parallel with the resolution pilots and involves development of procedures identified in the initial business pilot. Deliverables include user procedures for end-user training developed by LLP Consultants and documented policies and procedures developed by the Client’s project team.
- Data Conversions and Modifications
In this phase, data conversion processes and tools are developed and tested and any modifications or customisations are incorporated into the system and tested. Combined with the Final Business Pilot, the deliverable from this phase is a complete working system. In many implementations this serve the purpose of Test Data Conversion, and a Final Data Conversion is done after go live, when closed data from previous period becomes available. In this phase cutover plans are developed and reviewed.
- User Training
The project team conducts end-user training, using the policies and procedures developed in the Business Pilots. The deliverable is a well-trained user base prepared for immediate cutover.
DEPLOY: FINAL CUT-OVER
Final cutover from old system to SunSystems. Final data conversion is conducted in this phase after previous period is closed in the old system. LLP Consultants provide go live support during the first few days of live operation and they also support first month end closure with SunSystems.
CLOSURE: POST IMPLEMENTATION REVIEW
This review, conducted approximately 3-6 months after cut-over, provides a formal project review to ensure that the system has met the business objectives set out in the planning phase and that the system is being used to its fullest potential. It also helps to identify any enhancements or training requests.
How are you involved in this?
Core System Development and Deployment:
For companies embarking for the first time on the development of a core system for multinational deployment we usually start with a Core System Definition project, followed in rapid succession by one or more pilot deployments in diverse regions.
A Core System Definition project should bring together:
- The client’s project sponsor
- The client’s project manager
- A corporate reporting expert from headquarters
- Several controllers and financial accountants from a number of different regions
This team (ideally fewer than 10) will first be made familiar with those aspects of SunSystems relevant to the design of a core system that will satisfy both corporate and local requirements:
- The concept of the single ledger
- The concept of account, transaction and asset analysis
- The concept of budget ledgers and how they might be used
- The key elements of a journal
- Currency conversion mechanisms (during journal entry and during export/import)
- The nature of reporting
Guided by an LLP International system designer the team will consider how both corporate, management and local reporting requirements can be reconciled so that all requirements can be met without risk. This will involve determining:
- How the corporate chart of accounts relates to local statutory charts of accounts, if they exist
- How the corporate accounting calendar can be reconciled to local reporting calendars.
- How local taxes (VAT, sales taxes, withholding taxes, luxury good taxes, etc.) are to be recorded and reported
- How differing local and corporate accounting policies for asset capitalisation, depreciation and other adjustments are to be reconciled
What tools do we use?
Many implementations have difficulties sharing documentation between the project team members. We use Sharepoint to store all project related documentation and we also provide access to clients’ team members. There is no need to send documents through emails, there is no confusion of versions circulated and everybody can see the latest version with no delay. Documents are also edited on-line. Automatic notifications are sent to relevant team member on uploads, new versions available. At the end of the implementation the complete and up-to-date documentation can be easily downloaded and filed for future retention.
We work with standard, pre-designed project documentation, which are familiar to all of our consultants.
We use MS Project for project planning and time@work for time tracking against tasks.
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