Implementation Best Practices with Jim Hamilton

Leading a software implementation project can seem like a daunting task, particularly within a complex manufacturing operation. Aligning a diverse set of priorities internally, working with a new partner (e.g Covalent), and ensuring the solution is ready for a go-live deadline, can be a lot to manage. However, well-defined and efficient software implementation projects are very attainable, and can be instrumental in driving long-term organizational buy-in and reducing the time-to-value for your team. We recently sat down with Jim Hamilton, an implementation manager and veteran project leader here at Covalent to hear his perspective on implementing enterprise software like Covalent and how he has seen clients do it really well.

Thanks for sitting down with us Jim, can we start with learning a little bit more about your time at Covalent and your current role?

JH: I started as an implementation associate working primarily behind the scenes. I would take a lot of meeting notes, updating project documents, and supporting the implementation team any way I could. In about a year or so I became an implementation lead and started taking a more independent role, running my own meetings, meeting clients directly, being the face of the project. Finally, I started running an implementation team and learning what it meant to not only manage myself, but also manage all the aspects of the implementation process and strategy, while helping my team achieve success.

Can you give us a high level overview of the Covalent implementation process?

JH: Covalent is a very configurable product, which is great as it allows facilities to map to exact specifications. On the flip side, that can sometimes lead to people going down some rabbit holes pretty easily when they are not yet comfortable with the product. The main goal is to create a base foundation from which a client can then build scalable, repeatable processes in their Covalent instance over the long term. We really try to focus in on key priorities and learning, so that clients can potentially explore those more complex avenues in the future should they choose to.

How long does the implementation process usually take?

JH: Implementations can usually take anywhere from one to three months. Usually this is dependent on how much time per week client teams can allocate to these projects. The more thoughtwork and time clients can dedicate to the process, the quicker we can get them live and successful.

Who are the key stakeholders at client sites that would be ideal to involve in the implementation process?

JH: For Covalent, we have a few key stakeholders typically involved during this phase: training administrators, quality and lean teams, IT specialists, operational leaders, and most importantly individual operators. It's important to build specific work-streams and drive buy-in across all of these personas by citing the return on investment for their time.

How can organizations go about getting cross functional buy-in as they look to expand their Covalent instance?

JH: I always tell project leads to match a key Covalent value proposition with an existing pain point and leverage our collateral to discuss that with the different stakeholders. For example, for training administrators, it's about gaining efficiency and automation. For operational leaders, it's about increasing qualified coverage and productivity. If a project lead works with the Covalent team to communicate that and focus on solving the specific problems as part of the success criteria, then the adoption happens organically.

Can you talk about how to manage the change control during implementation?

JH: First off, maybe this is obvious, but good project planning dramatically reduces the likelihood of necessary change orders. That said, in reality, occasionally changes requests happen as new requirements get unearthed during a project, so it’s just really important to align upfront on the change management process. At the beginning of the project we sit down with the client and outline and agree on exactly what is in scope versus out of scope. If there is an agreed-upon change, we have documents that are collaboratively filled out detailing what the changes are and how the deadlines are affected. 

Any best practices you recommend that sites can adopt to ensure a smooth implementation process?

JH: Typically, the most successful implementations happen when clients are very proactive about documentation, carrying out the prep work, and are quick to ask for clarifications. If a project lead is looking for an answer but doesn’t feel comfortable communicating with their Covalent counterpart, it leads to inefficiency that everyone wants to avoid. They should never hesitate to reach-out and ask questions. Successful project leads also take the time to arm themselves with the right collateral to build buy-in throughout the organization. 

Can you talk a little bit about the go live process?

JH: Go-live is always exciting! It’s a culmination of the hard work put in from the project lead and Covalent team. It means we are ready for active users to participate in qualifications and leverage the workforce operations platform. Depending on the needs of the facility, go-live could start with a full user group, or a subset, but we work with the client upfront to determine the best approach. Go-live is also the point where our exceptional customer success team starts working with the facility and charting out longer term goals.

Any other recommendations you have for future sites to ensure a successful implementation?

JH: First thing I’d recommend is not to get too granular too quickly. Covalent is a very sophisticated software with a lot of features. To meet the initial needs of a workforce, it’s not always important to leverage them all right away. Clients should first start with building a scalable structure, with the assistance of the Covalent team, and then target specific areas or operations to take a deeper dive. That way, a power user can learn and get more comfortable then revise and layer on more advanced functionality at the right time

Secondly, if you have any challenges or uncertainties specific to your project, do not hesitate to let the Covalent team know. More than likely we have already tackled a similar challenge and can assist with charting a path forward. It’s always important to uncover any challenges early on in the project versus waiting until the end of the project.

Thanks for taking the time, Jim!

To learn more about the Covalent implementation process, or about the Covalent product contact us here.

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