How to Plan for a Construction Software Deployment
This is part one of three in a series of blogs called How to Plan for a Construction Software Deployment.
Are you considering deploying a major new construction software system for your organization? Here’s how to set the foundation for a successful launch.
Undertaking a major construction software implementation can feel overwhelming. But with the proper planning, you can lay the foundation for a smoother process and better results.
We have helped many organizations plan, scope, design and implement project management information systems (PMIS) and other similar large-scale construction software projects since 2009. Below are five foundational steps you can take to get your project off to a good start.
Our next blog post – How to Plan for a Construction Software deployment – Part 2 – gives you a few more tips and best practices for planning a major construction software implementation.
Step 1 – Develop a business case first
Starting with a solid business case is essential. This is where you define your goals, priorities and stakeholders. It’s also where you describe your desired outcomes.
You’ll need a persuasive business case to convince senior management and others in your organization of the merits of the new system. Plus, having a business case document will enable you to measure success at the end of the project and serve as a reference when you need to make tough choices about priorities.
A business case for your construction software implementation project should include the following sections:
- Problem statement – All system deployments are fundamentally about solving problems for your organization. Use this part of the business case to define in detail the problems and challenges the system will address as well as the relevant stakeholders.
- Priorities – List and rank your priorities for the project (e.g. cost, schedule, audit, risk, greatest impact and so on). Putting these in writing upfront will help you make decisions along the way if multiple priorities come into conflict.
- Definition of success – What are the outcomes that you want to achieve? Spell out what a successful deployment looks like for all stakeholders. Having this defined before you start will let you evaluate your end results and avoid scope creep.
- Solution concept – Now that you have enumerated the problems, priorities and goals for your project, you need to describe the solution you will implement and how it will achieve the desired outcomes for your organization.
- Cost-benefit analysis – A cost-benefit analysis showing the value and ROI of the new construction software system is imperative to getting buy-in from senior management, stakeholders and users alike.
- High-level scope, budget and schedule – Your scope, budget and schedule will be preliminary at this point, but you should make educated estimates now and revisit as you further define your project.
Congratulations – you now have a draft business case. Keep it handy, you will be updating it as you progress through the next steps.
Step 2 – Secure project resources
You should next ensure that you have the right resources dedicated to your project to keep your construction software deployment on schedule and within budget.
Here are some general guidelines about the roles you will need for your project team and their necessary time commitments:
Product Managers – There needs to be a Product Manager responsible for the deployment within your organization. The Product Manager might need to commit 25-50% of their time during the deployment.
If there is a construction software vendor or solution provider involved, they should designate a Product Manager for you to work with throughout the process.
Sponsor – The Sponsor, typically a senior manager or higher, handles the overall strategy and budget. A Sponsor might need to commit 10-15% of their time during the life of a construction software deployment.
Champion – The job of the Champion is building support among key team members and making tactical decisions. The Champion is typically a project manager who knows the processes and is well respected across the organization. A Champion might need to commit 10-15% of their time during the life of the deployment.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – SMEs provide real world experience in their area of expertise. Each major discipline that will be using the construction software system should have an SME representative so that the solution isn't built in a silo. A SME might need to commit 10-100% of their time to the project.
Other Contributors – Finally, think about other resources you will need. For example, any major system deployment will involve some level of IT support. Even if you are using an external solution, you will need IT help with potential hardware or software issues that could affect the system’s success.
You also need to consider contractors or other third parties who will use or be affected by the system. They will need to be involved to ensure a successful deployment.
Step 3 – Analyze the needs of your stakeholders
You identified stakeholders in Step 1 and assembled your team in step 2. Next you should carefully review the needs of your stakeholders by asking the following questions:
- What are their goals?
- How will they use the construction software solution?
- What other systems are they using and how will this project affect them?
- What does success look like to them?
- What technologies do they currently have and what technologies and tools are the best fit for their future needs?
Do your assumptions about your system align with what you learned from your stakeholders? In other words, does the system you are implementing meet their needs? If not, it may be necessary to revisit some of your premises from Step 1.
It can be helpful to gather user stories as part of this step. These are basically use cases describing the challenges encountered by a specific user or group with a description of how the new system will provide a solution.
Step 4 – Document your business processes
Now it’s time to document the business processes affected by the new construction software system.
We’ve written about documenting processes on our blog before – but here’s a quick primer:
- Your business process document should include workflows, form mockups, reports, stakeholders and current tools used by those performing the tasks.
- There are two types of business processes you will want to capture:
- “As Is” Processes – How you do business now. What works and what doesn’t work.
- “To Be” Processes – How you want to do business. This is where you can document an ideal process that you would like to create with the new system. Think about whether you can implement the process changes before the new construction software implementation.
- Treat process definitions as living documents that you keep up-to-date. Put them on a collaborative workplace to share with internal stakeholders and any software or services vendors involved with the project.
Chances are you’ve gained new insights since you put together the first draft of your business case from Step 1. Go back to your business case and make any updates based on what you have learned in Step 3 and Step 4.
Step 5 – Implementation Plan
Finally, you are now ready to create a proper implementation plan. This plan should draw from your updated business case and include the following items:
- Project scope
- Budget (combining expenses for both the capital and people involved with the project)
- A list of the resources required to complete the project
- A description of any dependencies or integrations
- A step-by-step project schedule--
We have found the foundational steps above critical ingredients to planning a successful construction software deployment project. What about you? What has worked or not worked at your organization? Let us know in the comments below.
Part 2 in our “How to plan for a construction software deployment” series will offer a few more tips and best practices. Part 3 will cover how to manage a construction software deployment.
Are you considering a new construction software or PMIS deployment?
The items above offer a high-level starting point for planning a system implementation project, but there can be a lot more to each step depending on the needs and circumstances of your organization.
We’re here to help if you need it. Lydon Solutions has years of experience assisting organizations with construction software projects. Contact us to get a free consultation to learn more.