Capturing the Rewards of Modernization

Principal Analyst

Top of Mind: Capturing the Rewards of Modernization
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

When establishing a modernization program, how can you focus your projects, teams, and executives on outcomes that matter? Most major software projects have tactical goals, such as completing the implementation on time and on budget, without establishing the outcome-related goals that focus on the impact of the change. One way to create and track these goals is to enlist the help of your software and implementation partners.

Major software implementations represent a massive cost to institutions, both in dollars and staffing, resulting in a significant opportunity cost that needs to be justified to senior leaders and boards. All too often, these justifications are not well measured after the fact, and if they are, many projects do not measure, or achieve, the expected results.

Some software vendors, often in conjunction with implementation partner firms, offer value realization programs to institutions. These are generally no-cost resources focused on promoting the value of implementing their software while helping the institution optimize the configuration and process design. Institutions use these programs to assist in building a business case, and when fully utilized, to measure the outcomes of the implementation.

The history of software vendors providing ROI calculations to institutions is fraught with overly optimistic, unrealistic calculations that don’t adequately consider the actual situation in which most institutions find themselves. For example, many ROI calculators estimate hours saved, multiply by some average staffing cost, and assume real savings. Often when hours are saved, staff use the saved hours performing tasks that they couldn’t get to before, resulting in no actual savings. There are no savings without staff reductions.

That being said, there are some well-thought-out, deeply resourced programs that focus on institution process metrics so that the institution controls the calculation and representation of progress. These programs require significant input and effort from the institution to measure pre-implementation processes, focus on the expected outcomes, and work closely with the consulting team to ensure the post-go-live measurements are meaningful.

These measurements can lead to post-go-live configuration refinement and process improvement in partnership with the vendor if done very well. This investment can bring discipline to process improvement.

Most institutions don’t fully use these services. In general, they are resources offered at no cost to the institution, but, as mentioned earlier, they require institutional resource commitment and leadership focus. Both of these resources are difficult to come by during an implementation. To maximize the value of these programs, institutions should plan out the resources as a part of project planning when the program is available from the vendors.

Another critical aspect of these programs’ potential is to help focus the continuous update processes that institutions require when moving to cloud solutions. The software changes multiple times a year, with new features, refactored user interfaces, and continually refined technology. Institutions need to build into their support plans with sufficient staffing to review, uptake, and accommodate the changes provided by the vendor. Keeping outcome objectives top of mind can help prioritize these decisions and focus changes on measurable institutional goals.  

When institutions participate in a value realization program, the impact of continued refinement of configuration and the assessment of new features and functions can be measured over time, providing justification for the staffing requirements of these efforts.

The benefits can be broad—both in real improvement across multiple process areas and the ability to quantify these improvements to leadership. Of course, the vendors will want to use these results to help sell their products. That’s a fair proposition if they provide tools and resources to support measurement and if the institution retains control over what metrics are used for marketing purposes. It’s a true win-win situation for institutions and vendors, where both parties focus on the same goal: real, measurable improvements for institutions.

Institutions should explore these programs during the sales cycle and seek leadership commitment to using their metrics to measure success to deepen the positive impact during and after their implementations and help build a culture of measurement in their organizations.  

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Principal Analyst
Dave Kieffer spearheads research focused on finance, and HCM applications, data management and other critical higher education technologies at Tambellini Group. He brings more than 30 years of creating, implementing, and managing enterprise-class applications in higher education. His experience includes all levels of applications development and management in higher education. Among other things, he has been responsible for ERP implementations, mobile, and web development, application architecture and integration technologies.

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