Implementing a system – a suggested approach

Implementing a system – a suggested approach


Implementing a system in an organisation can be a complex and risky project. There are many dimensions to think about. These range from highly technical matters to human behaviour and organisational culture. The failure of a major system not only costs the organisation in the project cost, licence fees, and staff time but also in lost potential, since a good system dramatically improves performance whereas a poor system or a poor implementation undermines the capacity of an organisation. People together with systems provide information and form the brain and nervous system of the organisation. Whether they be HR, Finance, CRM, VLE, Content management, Estates, Library, Portfolio, or MIS they are business critical and should be implemented with a clear understanding of the project aims.

Here is an overview of one approach you may consider if you are tasked with implementing a system in an organisation.

I have split the challenge into

  1. Aims – what are you trying to achieve
  2. Business process mapping – what processes are going to be redesigned
  3. Selecting a solution – deciding on the technologies and partners that will help deliver your solution


These are high level project aims such as reduce costs, improve the customer experience, or increase organisational flexibility.

Business process mapping

For example this could be what do you want to do to improve customer experience i.e. implement online enrolment or push personalised information to learners rather than require them to search for relevant information. It will involve an exercise to identify existing processes with a view to mapping new processes that will add some benefit. It is useful to identify each process that will be changed and document this graphically. If you add a diagram of the existing process and the proposed new process people can visualise the benefits more easily. This exercise should, ideally be carried out, prior to looking at specific technologies or solutions. Once you have a clear idea of what and why you are instigating change it is easier to negotiate with the people who will be delivering your new system/solution.

Selecting a solution

This could be:

  1. procurement of a single product
  2. an internal development project
  3. procurement of a range of products and services
  4. a mixture of the above

In any complex solution there will almost always be a collaboration with external supplier/s to further refine or customise an off the shelf product. It is also common to have external systems enhanced or integrated using internal resources.

The key therefore is the relationship/s between customer and supplier. The relationship is likely to be one lasting many years and should be robust enough to cope with:

  1. personnel changes on either side
  2. technological developments
  3. changing requirements

When you first start looking at systems the temptation is to make your selection based on the feature lists of the different products. I hope that this post has encouraged you to look at some of the wider issues that are often more important.

So to summarise your solution needs to :-

  • meet your overall project aims
  • enable your new proposed business processes
  • be able to cope with a mixture of solutions (internal & external)
  • be supported by strong relationships based upon shared values and trust

Good luck with your system implementation projects

Here are some questions we compiled recently to put to companies in relation to VLE hosting. However, many of these questions may also be relevant to the procurement of other systems too.

Points to consider when negotiating with a supplier

If you are procuring a VLE the following questions may be worth considering:-

What is the cost and how is it charged? per user, per concurrent user, per gigabyte, per support call

Where is the system hosted? US, Iceland, UK, within EU?

What is the size and age of the company?

Who are your customers? (education, local authorities, corporate)

What are the backup/disaster recovery arrangements for the system?

How many unplanned system downtimes have occurred?

What support is available – for admins, staff, students?

How flexible are you e.g. can plugins be used?

Do you integrate non supported plugins e.g. Gridmaker?

Do you provide design as part of the package?

How often is the system updated to the latest stable release?

What is your company vision for the future? direction of travel

What developments do you have planned for the next 3-5 years?

What support can you offer for system integration e.g. porting students from MIS system or active directory into Moodle?

What reporting features are offered? e.g. custom reporting

Can you provide or support single sign on?

Do you host, support and integrate e-Portfolios?

Do you offer an e-ILP feature?

How much would you charge to integrate the design of the
VLE with the website/intranet?

What type of training do you provide to administrators, staff and learners?

What is the cost?

Can you provide us with contacts for your clients for us to find out how they have found your services?

How have you gone about making your VLE designs
accessible to learners/users with disability issues?

What features have you incorporated into the design/layout?

Having a named person who will handle project management so that if any issues arise you’re not left trying to resolve them with the development team
Agree a ‘shared project management approach’
Establish protocols for the development process (change approval process)
Generate shared plans / schedules

Further reading

Working with commercial suppliers

Selecting technologies

Process improvement