3 Areas Where Most Software Implementation Projects Fail

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There are three key areas where projects struggle and which often contribute to project failure:

  1. 1. Change Management
  2. 2. Data Access Security
  3. 3. Data Migration

So how can you ensure that you address each of these areas and that your implementation project is successful? In the rest of this post we address each of these areas in turn and provide a list of best practices to keep in mind:



1. Change Management

Change Management has been an industry buzzword for many years. Unfortunately, everybody has a slightly different idea of what it means and how to successfully complete it. Finance and IT professionals often struggle with Change Management the most. I believe the reason for this is because finance and IT professionals usually excel with analytic, concrete problems: “it works, or it doesn’t”; “it adds up, or it doesn’t”; “it balances, or it doesn’t”. Change Management all comes down to communication. An implementation project is just like a relationship, without strong communication, it will likely fail. Keep the following practices in mind during your project:

  • Early and consistent communicationPeople are often uncomfortable with change and implementing new software is one of the biggest changes an organization can make. Employees resist sudden change. We’ve found that employees are much more receptive when change is clearly communicated over time and they feel like they are in the loop.
  • Don’t allow crutchesWe often find that after a new software solution has been implemented employees will continue to rely on old and familiar tools as they slowly get used to the new system. While this is understandable, it ultimately slows down the change process and some business processes will never become fully integrated with the new system. Whenever possible make sure your employees are using the new tool 100% from day one.
  • Get people involved Assemble your project team and create a strategy to communicate the up and coming changes with all project team members and your user community.
  • Keep decision makers “in-the-loop” Complete and circulate regular project updates to key project members, decision makers, and sponsors. Our clients have been extremely receptive to our simple and easy to understand one-page progress reports.
  • Change takes timeNew software has a learning curve. Make sure your employees know that you don’t expect them to be experts overnight. Set clear expectations regarding what you expect your employees to achieve and how long you expect it will take to get there.


2. Data Access Security

All modern software solutions should make use of role-based access security. In NetSuite, user roles are widely customizable. High levels of customization and choice can often be intimidating and scare many administrators off. Keep these best practices in mind when dealing with Data Access Security:

  • Use the best practices built into the systemDon’t try to reinvent the wheel. Most software solutions are configured out of the box with predefined roles, use them.
  • Use an iterative approachUse the native functionality of your system as the foundation and customize as needed when issues arise.
  • Start smallYou don’t need to “boil the ocean” and tackle every possible security issue at once. First, focus on the areas of the application where the most damage can be done and ensure access is controlled in these areas. These are often related to the movement of money (AP/AR), or around employee compensation. Mitigate the major threats first, then focus on the minor ones.
  • Protect your “ATM code”Seinfeld’s George Costanza taught us to never share our ATM code. Make sure your users heed George’s advice and keep their login details private and secure. Make sure you are aware of the native data security tools provided with the application, for example, how to setup and customize your password strength, password expiration, and user login attempt settings.


 3. Data Migration

“Garbage-in, garbage-out”. Most cloud-based applications like NetSuite and Adaptive Insights provide user-friendly data upload and import tools with their applications. However, a data import tool is only as useful as the data you are importing. Many businesses invest in new systems because their current systems aren’t able to provide or support the data they need to run their business. In these cases, simply importing all your old data into the new system is counterproductive and will result in replicating old problems in your new system. The following are some best practices to follow when you are moving data from an old to a new system:

  • You don’t need it all We all know the guy who spends valuable time meticulously cataloging every email he receives. Often he will never look at 99% of these emails again. Complete an honest assessment of the most important data that needs to be integrated into your new system. What historical data do your users actually access? What are your legal requirements? What can be backed up and stored outside of the system somewhere else in the rare event it may be needed in the future? Remember the motto: “less is more”.
  • Know your dataPoor quality data is often the result of bad processes. Software implementation projects are the perfect time to revisit old processes and make improvements. You should always have confidence that the data you are migrating is high quality and accurate.
  • Mutually Exclusive and Collectively ExhaustiveA friend who used to work for McKinsey would always ensure you were being “Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive”. When this concept is applied to data migration it means you need to ensure you have everything you need and nothing more. Duplicate data should be cleansed and any gaps need to be addressed.
  • Order of operations Unified software solutions act as the single source of truth for all your enterprise data. To do this the system relies on multiple integrated data records. For example, in NetSuite, your customer data records are likely linked to your transaction data records which are in turn linked to your item or inventory records. Mapping out your data and the order in which they must be imported is key to successful Data Migration.
  • Know when to call for help – We find that data migration is often the messiest part of any software implementation project. Implementation consultants often add the most value by helping their clients make sense of their current data and decide what will be useful and important to migrate to their new systems.

The success of a software implementation project depends on many factors, some of which are out of your control. Ensuring that Change Management, Data Access Security, and Data Migration stay top of mind will give your next implementation project a clear advantage.


I would like to thank Trisha Stark for her inspiration for this article. Trisha is a Consultant at Workday.

Warren is a Financial Implementation Consultant at Elegant Cloud Solutions.